Ethiopia is home to rich natural, cultural, and historical sites, yet the number of foreign tourists it attracts ranks only 17th across the African continent. There is no question that Ethiopia has the destinations to attract overseas visitors; however, currently it is lacking adequate infrastructure to meet tourists’ expectations. Ethiopia needs investment to build up its infrastructure and domestic and foreign investors alike are beginning to see the country’s largely untapped tourism industry as an excellent investment opportunity.
In 2011, Ethiopia attracted just 523,000 overseas tourists, while Morocco and South Africa attracted 9.3 million and 8.3 million tourists respectively. But Ethiopia’s tourism industry is growing as of late, and the number of foreign visitors is increasing at a rate of 10% per year. Another positive sign is that tourists are now spending more money, evidenced by the fact that tourism income in the country is increasing 20% annually. This growth in tourism income can be largely attributed to the recent attraction of American and European tourists over the age of 50, who generally spend considerably more than the young backpackers that the country generally attracts.
In order to continue to expand growth in the tourism sector, the Ethiopian government must be behind the movement and according to Greg Dorey, the United Kingdom’s ambassador to Ethiopia, it definitely is. In fact, Dorey stated that the Ethiopian government has expressed its goal to make Ethiopia one of the top tourist destinations in Africa. According to Dorey, a limiting factor for tourism expansion in Ethiopia could be that many in the government lack international exposure and may not fully grasp the positive economic impact that tourism can have.
Hopefully, the Ethiopian government and investors can see the great potential of Ethiopia’s tourism industry and capitalize on this economic opportunity, which could contribute to alleviating poverty in the country.