Ethiopia: Expanding Tourism to Rural Areas

The 2020 of World Tourism Day, will be celebrated with the theme of “Tourism and Rural Development”, with the unique role that tourism plays in providing opportunities outside of big cities and preserving cultural and natural heritage all around the world.

Tourism has been among the hardest hit of all sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic. No country has been spared by the virus. Restrictions on travel and a sudden drop in consumer demand have led to an unprecedented fall in international tourism numbers, which in turn have led to economic loss and the loss of jobs.

On this World Tourism Day, the COVID-19 pandemic represents an opportunity to rethink the future of the tourism sector, including how it contributes to the sustainable development goals, through its social, cultural, political, and economic value. Tourism can eventually help us move beyond the pandemic, by bringing people together and promoting solidarity and trust crucial ingredients in advancing the global cooperation so urgently needed at this time.

Tourism Expert Kaleab Belachew told The Ethiopian Herald that, celebrating tourism outside the city is highly important both in earning revenue and promoting the tourist sites found across the country. Over 85 percent of tourism sites are out of the cities. To bring actual change developing tourist sites found in rural area is important. While doing this the rural communities will aware all about the significance of the tourism.

On the other hand, most of the citizens working in the sector are at the risk because of job losses and business closures due to the pandemic. At the same time, the destinations most reliant on tourism for jobs and economic growth are likely to be the hardest hit. Joblessness is big issue in the country and tourism is one of the sectors which create jobs for thousands of citizens easily. Tourism is a lifeline, offering young people a chance to earn a living without having to migrate either within their respective areas or abroad, Kaleab indicated.

This year’s international day of observation comes at a critical moment, as countries around the world look to tourism to drive recovery, including in rural communities where the sector is a leading employer and economic pillar providing jobs and other economic opportunities.

So far the attention given for the rural area is low having abundant natural and man-made heritage which contributes a lion share to the sector. Focusing on rural areas is crucial so as to promote those heritages in depth. Each nation will provide showcase which expressed their culture in their respective areas. Apart from this connecting tourism with rural areas will help people to stay at their residential areas than traveling to other parts of tourism.

Celebrating tourism outside the city will help to understand and know rural lifestyle, culture and others. It can be a variant of ecotourism. Many villages can facilitate tourism because many villagers are hospitable and eager to welcome visitors. At the same time urban population are also interested in visiting the rural areas and understanding the lifestyle.

Having abundant potential in the sector the potential is still unexploited. With nine World Heritage sites and commitment from the government to achieve reforms, Ethiopia still has room for growth in its tourism sector. Identifying and developing tourist site is important to generate revenue and also promote tourism, he noted.

While Ethiopia may see a decline in tourism this year, it still shows tremendous potential. It is home to nine world heritage sites and the government has highlighted tourism as a key contributor to economic growth along with plans to improve the investment landscape of the tourism sector in order to address potential hurdles investors may face.

Cooperating with private sectors facilitating infrastructure that connects rural areas with the urban and the tourist site across the country is highly important both in promoting and benefiting from the sector. Compared to the tourist potential of the country still much effort is remained. On the other hand it has its own impact in strengthening community based ecotourism where the local community has well aware of their cultural aspects in their respective areas and involvement in its development and management as well, Kaleab says.

Development through tourism can also keep rural communities to keep and protects heritages from damage and burglary activities. It is estimated that by 2050, 68 percent of the world population will live in urban areas.