Djibouti attracting more Ethiopian tourists

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The National Tourism Office of Djibouti is hoping to attract more Ethiopian tourists now that they have expanded infrastructure and constructed more links between the two countries.
The office wants tourism to make up a higher proportion of the GDP. The tourism office CEO, Osman Abdi Mohamed, is working with the private and public sector to make Djibouti a tourist destination.
One way Djibouti is attempting to make this a reality is to improve service oriented businesses, particularly the logistics sector. Recently the country has opened three new ports including Doraleh Multipurpose Port (DMP), the latest and biggest port in the region. They have also worked hard to improve their transport infrastructure in the past few years.
Ethiopia and Djibouti have become re-linked via a modern electric railway that replaces the century old rail line. The Ethiopian side is also working on developing roads including an express road along the corridor to Djibouti. Recently Djibouti has also launched the development of express roads connecting to Ethiopia.
The logistics sector is the country’s major economic resource, while Ethiopia, which is the most populated nation without a sea outlet in the world, is the major user of its ports. This has been particularly true in the past two decades after a conflict with Eritrea.
“We have beautiful tourism sites for visitors including beautiful beaches, whale sharks and other sea side and inland destinations,” Osman Abdi said.
The sector has registered a 40 percent increase last year
“We are working to market tourism while at the same time attempting to attract international investors like big hotel companies,” he said.
The government has decided to put money into tourism so last March the government organized a national forum on tourism which attracted many stakeholders. The forum came up with a strategic national master plan which will be finished by the end of this month.
The two countries have agreed to cooperate more to integrate tourism. “Our office in collaboration with its counterpart in Ethiopia organized the first meeting between Djibouti and Ethiopian private operators here and the second meeting will be held in Addis Ababa in February,” he added.
In the meeting the two bodies agreed to develop tourism packages together.
He said that Ethiopia has several tourist destinations some even registered by UNESCO. “It is a good opportunity for us also since tourists that visit Ethiopia might come to our beaches or seaside areas,” he added.
Osman Abdi said that in the last two years the numbers of tourists coming after visiting Ethiopia are growing. The CEO said that his office branch will open in Addis Ababa this month.
The master plan includes massive promotion, strengthening the skills of workers and expanding professionalism to boost tourism service, and financing and building facilities for investors in the sector.
The tourism sector contributes three percent to the GDP, which is expected to reach 5 percent in the coming five years. According to the CEO there are now 140 thousand every year and that number is expected to increase to half a million in five years.
Most of the visitors to Djibouti are from France but the country is working to change that. “Now we are also working to attract tourists from China, Ethiopia, and the Gulf States,” the CEO added. He indicated that Ethiopian tourists would enjoy the beach and sea foods that they don’t have in their country. “Ethiopians shall spend their weekend in Djibouti just coming by airplane or cheap transport of train and road,” he added.
“To get more tourists from new countries we want to expand languages like Amharic, Chinese and others,” he said.
Experts like Tadios Getachew, the Ethiopian born diaspora who lived in the US and owns Kuriftu Resorts and Spas, says that these kinds of infrastructural developments will improve the people to people relationship between the two countries. Tadios, who is investing in the hospitality industry in Djibouti, said that Djibouti is only 45 minutes away from Addis Ababa via air transport and with new infrastructure there are more options.
Kuriftu Resorts and Spas has recently inaugurated the first restaurant overlooking the sea in Djibouti city at a cost of USD 2 million. The resort rests on 65.3 hectares of land at Moucha Island, which is a 15 minute boat ride away from Djibouti’s capital.