BY SOLOMMON DIBABA

Ethiopia is one of the leading nations with major tourist destinations endowed with enormous natural, historical, and cultural heritages. A total of 13 tangible and intangible of its heritages are inscribed by UNESCO.

The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalyibela, the Castle of Gondar, the Stelae of Axum, the Walled City of Harrar, Tiya Stones, Lower Awash, Konso Cultural Landscape, Lower Omo Valley and the Semien Mountains National Park are among known attractions.

Intangible world heritages like, Ethiopian Timket, Gada system (an indigenous democratic socio-political system of the Oromo), Fichee-Chambalaalla (New Year festival of the Sidama people) and Commemoration feast of the finding of the True Holy Cross of Christ; and Ashenda (Ethiopian girls festival) which is under on-going nomination list are also world intangible cultural heritages of the country.

In addition to its natural and cultural resources, Ethiopia has also many tourist attraction resources such as origin of human being, home of Lucy. Ethiopia is also among the oldest countries to accept the two known religions – Christianity and Islam in the world as a result; Ethiopia is also known by its religious heritages. As a result, a large number of tourists visited the country every year. About 900,000 tourists from different countries visited Ethiopia every year with an annual revenue of more than 3 billion USD before the outbreak of COVID-19.

Regardless of being home of all these tourist attractions and resources, Ethiopia is not benefited from its tourism sectors as expected relative to Sub-Saharan African countries like Kenya, Tanzania & South Africa.

Reports from World Tourism Organization note that in 1995, tourism revenues amounted to 177.00 million USD, or about 2.3 percent of the gross national product. This corresponded to about 103,000 tourists at that time and roughly 1,718 USD per person. Within 25 years, the country’s dependence on tourism has increased noticeably. Before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, sales took up 3.53 billion USD, 3.7 percent of gross national product. Thus, each visitor spent an average of 4,346 USD on their vacation in 2020, though tourist receipts plummeted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the last two years, as part of Ethiopia’s Green Legacy Initiative launched by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Entoto Park, Friendship Park, Unity Museum,  recently inaugurated Science Museum, Abrehot Library were developed adding to the natural beauty of Addis Ababa.

Prime Minister Abiy launched the Gebeta Lehager or Dine for Ethiopia project which some three years ago with a view to develop three new world-class tourist sites in Gorgora, Wonchi and Koyisha. So far the nation has raised 4.3 billion Birr to launch ecotourism projects in the aforementioned areas. Koysha, Gorgora and Wenchi projects, which are endowed with natural, cultural and historical assets, are expected to provide decent work, improve livelihoods and return on investments for all stakeholders. Through the facilitation of basic infrastructure, multidimensional investments centered on tourism, recreation and hospitality are expected to catalyze the local economies and create many job opportunities.

The three ecotourism projects exhibit the link between Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy Policy and the various projects which includes national greening strategies, ecotourism and researches in various spheres on nature based researches.

A Bit into a Bird’s Eye View of the Projects

Gorgora is a lakeshore port town established by Emperor Amda Seyon of Ethiopia 700 years back on Lake Tana close to Bahir Dar City. It is an exotic location with tantalizing natural beauty which would captivate the attention of a casual visitor or a seasoned tourist from anywhere in the world. It is located on a breathtaking location on 78 kms from Bahir Dar. Gorgora was once the epicenter of Ethiopia’s socio-economic, historical and political activities.  

The Gorgora comprehensive ecotourism project for which 1 billion birr is earmarked is one of the projects financed by the Gebeta Lehager or Dine for Ethiopia project which rests on 884 hectare of land. The project expands into three plots in the area locally known as Sariba, Kaka and Habab. Out of the total area 100 hectare is allocated for port development, creative arts center, and historic and cultural conservation center. A total of 34 hectares is also allocated for infrastructure development for the whole area. Moreover 88 hectares is allocated for guest houses, hotels, lodges while 75 hectares is set aside for indoor and outdoor sports. In addition, 66 hectares will be covered by agriculture development programs including horticulture, herbal medicine, spices and other agricultural activities including fishery.

Gorgora project connects Bahir Dar and Gondar by land and boats on the water canal and is very close to Semien Mountains National Park which is registered by  UNESCO as a tangible world heritage. A total of 134 investors have already been registered to engage in various recreational, tourist development and service delivery sector. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said “Gorgora, the third special project site, is a remarkable historic port town on the shores of Lake Tana. Bridging Gojjam and Gonder, Gorgora is also a fishing town and transit route for consumer goods. Its historic relevance and lakeshore scenic beauty is a tourism magnet that can be maximized, thereby creating more jobs and developing the hospitality sector. The project “will bring in roads, electricity and enhance telecom services to enable private sector investments.”

The Wonchi Ecotourism project is another extraordinary nature based project which is located in Dendi Woreda 127 kms from Addis Ababa. The entire project rests on 8 square kms surrounded by wonder mountains of exotic beauty. The Wonchi Crater Lake is 5 kms long and 2 kms wide.  The project encompasses a mountain side resort with traditional houses, lake side bungalow, modern bungalow, lodges, Demera site, cable car service, camping sites, hot spring services, amusement area, five start resort hotel, food courts, a conservation center, sports and athletic area, horse racing and equestrian center. The pristine volcanic lakes of Wenchi and Dendi have finally been given the attention they deserve. The area is endowed with hot springs and waterfalls and has a legacy of once powerful volcanoes with little infrastructure for tourists.

The Koisha Ecotourism Center is located in Dawero Zone of the SNNPR. The second biggest hydroelectric power project, Koyisa Dam is located close to the area. This is a phenomenal ecotourism area in which cultural good centers, herbal medicine research hub, library, mountain hiking, hot springs and a number of waterfalls are available. The Chebera  Churchura National Park, sunrise lodges, sun set lodges and, centers for hydrotherapy, jungle sports and camping sites are also the other facilities to be located in Koisha. The natural green areas and the vegetation coverage as well as the diverse variety of wild animals are indeed quite tantalizing for tourists, researchers and naturalists.

Although the development of tourism and ecotourism in particular has faced huge problems related to the war that was triggered by the TPLF over the last two yours, in her address to the joint session of the Ethiopian parliament this week, President Sahelwork Zewde has stressed the development of tourism and ecotourism as one of the priority areas of the government development program over the current fiscal year.

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