Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
Today I am taking a train down to Washington D.C. and getting a room at the Holiday Inn at Dulles Airport in preparation for flying out tomorrow morning on Ethiopian Airways to Addis Ababa for my first trip to Ethiopia. I am being sponsored by the Ethiopian government and NTA, the travel association formerly known as the National Tour Association.
Perhaps it requires no explanation why one would go to Ethiopia, or anywhere else for that matter, but there are several reasons layered on top of each other that draw my interest to this trip in particular.
First off is Ethiopia itself, the mysterious East African country, so full of fascinating aspects. Ethiopia in itself is a giant subject that I will discussing in a series of Dispatches over the coming days. I won’t even try to open that subject in this introduction. Even a short list of the reasons Ethiopia is interesting would be beyond the available time and space of this column. But there are also many layers of interest on top of the destination itself. Here’s a quick rundown of some of them.
This trip represents the Ethiopian government’s efforts to build tourism. It is reaching out to the U.S. travel industry and trying to get some traction in its travel market. From a travel industry it will be interesting to see how they are going about that.
Conversely, on the other side of the Atlantic Americans’ travel frontiers keep expanding outward, and Ethiopia now has its chance to enter the domain of the travel that is familiar to Americans. Ethiopia is on the fringe, just knocking at the door asking for admittance to American consciousness.
As part of its campaign to build tourism it has entered into this partnership with NTA to sponsor this product development trip open to its tour operators. It’s a good strategy for Ethiopian Tourism to reach into NTA to gain access to its hundreds of tour operator members.
But NTA is traditionally known as an association of mostly domestic motorcoach tour operators. How many of them are interested in organizing trips to Ethiopia? That’s one of the questions I’ll be hoping to answer on this trip.
I’m looking forward to meeting the NTA member tour operators who did opt to participate in this trip for product development research.
That’s a quick rundown of some of the reasons this trip is of interest to me. I have never been to Ethiopia. As the Africa editor for Travel Pulse I have been to Africa quite a number of times and to many different countries. But I have not made it to Ethiopia and it seems a necessary area to learn about as the Africa reporter.
The ultimate purpose of the trip is to try to share as much as I can of what I learn with you, whoever chooses to read the reports. I see my function as a reporter, and like any reporter I am reporting from the scene, trying to share with you the advantages of being on the scene. I’m trying to pass on to you the kinds of things that I will be learning as I pass from being someone who has never experienced Ethiopia to one who has. It’s my job and my desire to share it with you (dear reader) as fully as I can.
So before, after, during and all the time I am reporting on any of those matters, there will be Ethiopia, the main attraction, the setting for everything that will play out over the next week and a half, the ultimate reason for the trip, the universe of reasons to be fascinated with Ethiopia.
Ethiopia will be the overarching reality that will dwarf all these other concerns. Such is the power of the environment, so ubiquitous we have trouble focusing on it. And yet it exerts its power over you. You are but a grain of dust to the place itself, and you will blow with the winds and flow with the tides when you are there. You will become a part of Ethiopia, a blood cell in its circulatory system of human blood.
We’ll take that a bite at a time. And meanwhile there will be Ethiopia, all around, in its eternal glory and its present moment of life.