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WEF invalidates tourism revenues
By Birhanu Fikade, The Reporter Ethiopia
– Stranded tourists escorted to safer places

The World Economic Forum (WEF), in its 2017-18 global travel and tourism competitiveness report, indicated that revenue figures generated by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MoCT), does not necessarily go in line with realistic estimates globally accepted.

Back in January, while reporting to the House of People’s Representatives (HPR), Hirut Woldermariam (PhD), minster of MoCT, told MPs about the cheering performance of the sector in the first half of the current fiscal year. She said that, “In the first six months, a total of 485,806 foreign tourists visited Ethiopia generating USD 1.8 billion for the country.” This year’s performance is 10.5 percent higher compared to last year, according to the minister’s report.

However, that has been invalidated and appears to be hard to swallow for operators like Tony Hickey, general manager of Ethiopian Quadrants PLC, a tour and travel company registered and operating in Ethiopia. The WEF estimates that 87 percent of travelers who arrive in Ethiopia spend less than seven days in the country. While the Ministry puts the average stay of foreign travelers to be seven days. Based on an estimated average receipt per arrival and the average stay, the government computed that USD 1.8 billion has been generated. That figure is disputed on the premise that conference tourists are not likely to spend the whole seven days.

These estimates are mostly applicable for holiday, leisure or adventure travelers. Hence, on average, considering business travelers who mostly stay in Addis are assumed to spend two days, as the WEF estimate indicates.

Contradicting the USD 1.8 billion revenue, WEF slashed those figures to arrive at USD 444 million. This fact needs to be further scrutinized, as the Ministry is not familiar with the analysis WEF has publicized.

In a related development, following this week’s unrest and blockades of roads, at least 70 tourists, packed on 28 vehicles were caught in-between until they were escorted by a military convoy. Yakob Melaku, president of Ethiopian Tour Operators Association told The Reporter that some 33 tourists stranded while visiting Bale have been escorted to Hawassa and from Hawassa they were air lifted to Addis Ababa. In addition to that, some 33 travelers who were in Ziway and Shashemene have also been taken to Arba Minch then flew back to the capital.

Other sources have told The Reporter that from Monday to Wednesday there have been visitors stuck in Harar and Addis Ababa who were unable to set off and visit places until they have been provided escorts. From Thursday onwards however, disturbances seemed to settle down to allow movements.

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