PHOTO: Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia. (Photo via Flickr/Alan)
On the heels of being named one of Lonely Planet’s “Top Ten Countries to Visit” this year, Ethiopia has announced it is establishing a tourism marketing presence in North America.
“Ethiopia is as exotic as countries come,” enthuses Lonely Planet.
Ethiopia, the only African nation to make Lonely Planet’s top ten list, is now getting serious about attracting North American visitors.
The Ethiopian Tourism Organization, formed in 2014, has recently inked an agreement with New York-based CornerSun, who will represent and promote the destination to travel trade and media throughout the United States and Canada.
For its North American campaign, Ethiopia launching the brand message, “The Land of Origins,” a multi-faceted nod to the country’s diverse history and culture. The oldest polity (state) in Africa, Ethiopia is the home of Lucy, the world’s oldest hominin (humanoid) skeleton. It is also the land from which the Blue Nile emerges and, of course, it is the origin of the world’s coffee.
It seems that tourists around the world are cluing into all that Ethiopia has to offer. In 2015, the country welcomed more than 800,000 visitors, a 12 percent increase over the previous decade. For 2016, those numbers are expected to top 900,000. And tourism officials are now hoping for a million visitors this year.
Helping stimulate the growth are the efforts of Ethiopian Airlines, a government-owned airline founded in 1945. In 2015, Ethiopian Airlines launched its newest service from the Americas, a direct flight between Los Angeles and Bole Airport in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, with a stop in Dublin, Ireland. The airline also flies from Newark, Washington D.C. and Toronto in the Americas.
In Africa, the Ethiopian Airlines connects to 55 cities, including 20 domestic destinations. Earlier this month, the airline made news when it became the first in Africa to start flying the Airbus A350.
Accommodation options are also increasing throughout the nation. Between 2009 and 2012, the hotel inventory in Ethiopia nearly doubled. In addition to plentiful, locally owned properties, Ethiopia also features such international brands as Sheraton, Hilton, Radisson Blu, Marriott and Ramada. To help visitors navigate the hotel landscape, the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture & Tourism is currently developing a formal hotel grading system.
To spread the message of all that visitors can expect while in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Tourism Organization is in the midst of a three-city roadshow in the Americas. While in Los Angeles, CEO Solomon Tadesse spoke on several key components of the tourism organization’s new marketing campaign, including outlining the country five major tourism routes: The Historic North and the Simien Mountains; The Rift Valley and the Cultural Mosaics of the South; The East—Danakil, Harar and the Bale Mountains; The West—Lush Nature and Coffee Routes; and Addis Ababa and Surroundings.
Mr. Tadesse also addressed issues of safety, displaying a graphic from the Global Terrorism Index that shows terrorism had a low impact on Ethiopia. (Lower in fact, according to the graphic, than the United States.)
Interestingly, Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that has never been colonized. It is home to more than 80 cultures and nationalities and is also the center of the African Union, which also means it has one of the highest number of diplomatic missions in the world.
In attendance at Ethiopia’s Los Angeles trade show were a number of suppliers, eager to speak with travel agents about creating programs for their adventurous clients, including:
Adot-Tina Hotel—In Addis Ababa, the Adot-Tina Hotel is located just seven minutes from Bole Airport. The hotel features three types of rooms, standard, junior suite and executive suites, all of which come inclusive with free buffet breakfast, and is also equipped with a business center, gym and sauna and free airport shuttle service.
Goha Hotel—Located in Gondar, near the falls of the Nile River, there is plenty to attract visitors to the Goha Hotel. The locally owned company that owns the property is making numerous in-roads in eco-developments in Ethiopia. It also owns a plastics factory that pays locals for plastic materials they gather and then converts those plastics into comfortable shoes for local farmers. The company also owns Begoha Tours & Travel, which can help visitors custom-create itineraries throughout the nation.
Abyss Land Tours and Travel—For travelers looking for a general overview of Ethiopia, Abyss Land Tours & Travel offers a variety of packaged programs and can also create custom itineraries for individual clients. Many of the tours have an emphasis on trekking and adventuring, but low-impact programs are also available.
AE Alemet Ethiopia Tours—Travelers who prefer to experience their adventures solo can head over to AE Alemet Ethiopia Tours, which provides car rental services in addition to packaged tour itineraries. Or enjoy the best of both worlds and have AE Alemet organize a driver for your stay.
Daniel and Frey Tours—The husband and wife team behind Daniel and Frey Tours tend to focus on photography-based tours and can even arrange helicopter programs for visitors interested in capturing a wider shot of Ethiopia’s vast landscapes. At the end of every tour, Daniel and Frey help clients put together a custom photo book of their adventure.
Ghion Travel & Tours—Although Ghion Travel & Tours handles all types of clients, it specializes in religious travel, whether clients wish to explore the origins of Christianity, Judaism or Muslim culture, Ghion can help organize a customized program.
Grand Holidays Ethiopia Tours—Locally owned Grand Holidays Ethiopia Tours was recognized by National Geographic Adventure with a 95/100 client satisfaction rating and an 89.5/100 for quality in service. The tour company has a strong emphasis on sustainability and works with visitors to provide advice on how to respect the culture and beliefs of the local communities visited on each tour.
Kibran Tours—Although it is one of the oldest tour operators in Ethiopia, Kibran Tours hires a young, energetic staff who are fluent in a variety of languages. Look for tours that offer Kibran’s BOVA buses, which are equipped with huge panoramic windows and extra-wide seats for touring comfort.
My Choice Ethiopia Tours—Whether your needs are simple, booking a hotel in Ethiopia for example, or require more complex planning, My Choice Ethiopia Tours offers a variety of programs throughout the country.
Selam International Travel & Tours—This Addis Ababa-based Selam International Travel & Tours specializes in VIP clients with an emphasis on the diplomatic visitors who come to Ethiopia for African Union or other high-level meetings. Still, the products offered by Selam are accessible to everyone and range from bird watching and adventure tours to pilgrimages and history and culture tours.
Sunny Land Ethiopia Tours—A good bet for active clients is Sunny Land Ethiopia Tours, which specializes in bike routes. The company has its own bikes and can handle the most active itineraries for cyclists looking to conquer Ethiopia’s vast mountainscapes or it can organize bike and van tours that provide a little more breathing room for the moderately active traveler.
For more information on visiting Ethiopia, click to www.ethiopia.travel.