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Ethiopia’s Sustainable Tourism Master Plan 2015-2025


Ethiopia’s Sustainable Tourism Master Plan 2015-2025

Ethiopia’s Sustainable Tourism Master Plan 2015-2025
Photo credit: ESTMP

ECA’s deputy executive secretary, Giovanie Biha, has handed over Ethiopia’s Tourism Master Plan to the country’s minister of tourism and culture, Mrs. Aisha Mohammed Mussa.

The master plan, which is meant to guide tourism activities in Ethiopia for the next ten years, was developed by ECA in collaboration with Ethiopia’s ministry of tourism and culture.

Speaking at the event, Mrs. Biha applauded Ethiopia’s efforts to boost tourism, which she described as a sector that could speed up the much-needed structural transformation in Africa.

“In 2015, the value of the industry in Africa stood at over USD 180 billion, accounting for 8% of the continent’s GDP,” said Mrs. Biha. “This exceeds the contributions from manufacturing and the banking sector.”

The deputy executive secretary, however, deplored the fact that the global share of Africa’s tourism was only 3% of USD 7.6 trillion in 2015.

“That’s why ECA is relentless in its efforts to address the impediments to regional tourism development, including connectivity across the continent,” Mrs. Biha added.

In 2011, ECA commissioned a study to examine opportunities and challenges of tourism in Eastern Africa. The study concluded, among other things, that a regional framework to address challenges facing tourism in the region was needed.

Based on this recommendation, IGAD developed a master plan with technical support from ECA. According to Geoffrey Manyara, an ECA Economic Affairs Officer who helped develop the master plan, member-states were spurred to action by IGAD’s regional framework.

“The IGAD master plan recommended that member states with tourism development instruments in place should have them aligned to IGAD’s regional master plan,” said Mr. Manyara. “A number of member-states then approached ECA to help develop their respective master plan. So, we started Ethiopia’s in 2013 and finished in 2015.”

Uganda’s tourism master plan was completed in 2014, and work is on-going on the Djibouti master plan.

The handover ceremony took place during a UNWTO regional workshop on tourism in Addis Ababa. In her opening remarks, Mrs. Elcia Grandcourt, director of UNWTO’s regional program for Africa, depicted Ethiopian Airlines as a key driving force for the sustainable development of travel and tourism in Africa. 

“We commend Ethiopian Airlines for the work done in support of air liberalization in Africa,” said Mrs. Grandcourt. “This includes the recent open skies agreement signed between Ethiopia and Rwanda, which denotes the positive impact of regional integration on the tourism sector.”

Executive summary


As a result of sweeping economic reforms, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) has been enjoying unprecedented tourism growth in the recent years. International tourist arrivals have been on a growth trajectory since the 90s rising from 64,000 in 1990 to 681,249 in 2013. This has been matched by growth in the contribution of the travel and tourism sector’s direct contribution to the country’s GDP which in 2013 was 4.2%, translating to ETB 35,766.6m and is expected to grow by 4.8% p.a. reaching ETB 59, 495.2m (3.6% of GDP) by 2024.

Further, the industry is now an important source of employment accounting for 3.8% of total employment in 2013 representing 985,500 jobs directly and this is forecast to grow by 0.1% in 2014 to 986,000 (3.6% of total employment). Such performance has seen the tourism industry increasingly becoming an important economic sector in the country and has consequently been identified as an avenue through which the plan for accelerated and sustainable development to end poverty can be achieved, as articulated in the country’s Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), (2010-2015) vision to:

“Build an economy that has a modern and productive agricultural sector with enhanced technology and an industrial sector that plays a leading role in the economy, sustaining economic development and securing social justice and increasing the per capita income of the citizens so as to reach the level of those in the middle-income countries.”

As pertains to the tourism sector, the GTP aims at doubling the tourist arrivals from 500,000 to 1 million, and a twelve-fold increase in tourist expenditures from 250 million USD in 2010 to 3 billion in 2015. The Government is also now in the process of embarking on the second GTP which seeks to propel the country to middle income status by 2025. Accordingly, building on the success of the GTP1, GTP2, further sets high targets for the tourism sector to be achieved by 2025. Of course, while these targets may seem ambitious, they fully reflect the aspirations of the country becoming ‘One of the Five Top Destinations in Africa by 2020’.

To help ensure that tourism growth delivers broad and equitable social, economic, and environmental benefits, the government of the FDRE adopted the National Tourism Development Policy (NTDP) in 2009 with a vision:

“To see Ethiopia’s tourism development led responsibly and sustainably and contributing its share to the development of the country by aligning itself with poverty elimination.”

The NTDP sets the sector’s general objectives that places emphasis on the tourism’s potential in terms of growth, employment generation (particularly for women and youth), foreign exchange earnings, and image building for the country. It also stresses the importance of achieving tourism growth sustainably, in alignment with other national development policies and with broad participation by the different stakeholders. In this context, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MoCT) – the agency mandated by FDRE to oversee the systematic development of tourism – prepared the Sustainable Tourism Master Plan (STMP) with financial and technical support from the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa.

Guiding principles, aims and strategic objectives of the ESTMP

The main aim of this STMP is to establish a national framework for sustainable tourism development with a view to contributing to socio-economic development and poverty alleviation. The STMP therefore, sets out 10 Strategic pillars, priority projects and activities in a long-term implementation framework covering 2015-2025. These are broken down into short term, medium term and long term planning horizons.

The STMP adopts the NTDP vision for tourism in Ethiopia and its specific objectives as the base guiding principles and uses an integrated model of tourism planning including Destination competitiveness and sustainable tourism development approaches. Specifically, the STMP is guided by the following underlying principles:

  1. Tourism planning should adopt a system approach to development focusing not only on the development processes but also on the necessary inputs and outputs.

  2. Tourism development should be sustainable providing equity for both inter-generational, (whereby the current exploitation of tourism resources should not compromise the ability of future generations), and intra-generational, taking into account issues relating to enhancing social justice and poverty alleviation.

  3. The STMP should enhance the competitiveness of the country as a tourist destination by building on the existing unique aspects of each individual region that should complement the country’s overall image and creation of synergies in areas of common tourism interest.

  4. The STMP should provide strategies that would reduce the level of tourism economic leakages while at the same time enhancing tourism economic linkages and multiplier effect through sound value chain development policies.

  5. The STMP should provide strategies in line with the wider national, regional, continental and international development initiatives and economic development plans. Tourism development should be guided by sound research.

  6. The STMP should, therefore, provide a mechanism for skills, knowledge and technology transfer among member states with a view to enhancing sustainability, human capital and regional competitiveness.

Key objectives for the strategic pillars

Policy, Regulation and Institutional Framework

  • Establish and improve framework for formulation and implementation of tourism policies and regulations
  • Strengthen and harmonise public sector institutions
  • Strengthen private sector institutions
  • Strengthen public-private collaboration
  • Strengthen linkages with other sectors

Tourism Product Development

  • Enhancing the appeal of the country’s existing tourism products
  • Expanding and diversifying the country’s tourism product
  • Develop inter-regional tourism product
  • Create a framework for tourism product development

Tourism Marketing, Branding and Promotion

  • Intensifying the country’s appeal in the current target market segments
  • Diversification of the country’s tourist market
  • Build a national brand that improves and entrenches the image of the country as a tourist destination
  • Disseminate and manage destination information
  • Establish institutional and strategic frameworks for marketing the country

Investment in Tourism Facilities and Services

  • Enhance the capacity of the existing tourist services and facilities
  • Create a conducive environment to encourage investments in the tourism sector
  • Promote investment opportunities for tourism services and facilities

Human Resource Development

  • Address the short-term HR needs for the tourism sector
  • Build a long-term supply of globally competitive human resource for the tourism sector

Tourism Research and Development

  • Create a framework for tourism research and development within the country

Tourist Safety and Security

  • Design and develop a tourism safety and security strategy

Tourism Support Infrastructure and Services

  • Engender tourism industry development focus in national and regional infrastructure development

Conservation and Preservation of Natural and Cultural Resources

  • Enhancing the conservation and preservation of natural and cultural resource

Tourism Development Financing

  • Institutionalise the mobilisation of financial resources to fund tourism development
  • Design strategies to mobilise financial resources to fund tourism development under the TDF framework

These strategic pillars and key objectives are organised to produce a coordinated response to future industry growth and emphasises their inter-relationships and equal importance.

In line with the projections of GTP2, the STMP has set a high growth target of 5 million international visitors in 2025. Based on this high growth scenario, receipts from international arrivals is projected to increase from a baseline of ETB 14.197 billion in 2012 to ETB 180 billion in 2025, with the corresponding number of tourism-related jobs rising from 985,500 to 4.8 million.

To ensure that this growth is realised in a competitive and sustainable manner, the master plan includes 10 strategic pillars with an indicative cost of ETB 5.306 billion.

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