The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is in the process of formulating its Sustainable Tourism Master Plan (STMP). The STMP is an initiative currently being developed through the technical support provided by the Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa (SRO-EA) and the Division for Regional Integration and Trade (RITD), in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The process of formulating the STMP has entailed extensive field missions across the country, in-depth interviews with key stakeholders drawn from various sectors including public, private, professional organizations, civil society, regional government officials and academia. In addition, two regional consultative meetings have been already been held in Mekele and Dire Dawa and one more is scheduled to take place in Addis Abeba between 30th and 31st of July 2014. It is expected that following the field missions, interviews with stakeholders and the consultative meetings, a zero draft STMP will be prepared within one month which will then be subjected to national validation meeting to pave way for the preparation of the final draft of STMP.
The STMP is part on-going process of the implementation of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) STMP. The IGAD STMP was informed by a regional tourism study commissioned by UNECA SRO-EA in 2010 and the green light for its formulation approved at the 15th meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) of SRO-EA that took place in Djibouti, between 21st to 24th February 2011, whose main focus was on tourism under the theme Towards a Sustainable Tourism Industry in Eastern Africa. The IGAD STMP has since been completed and was officially launched the IGAD Tourism Inter-Ministerial forum held in Nairobi, Kenya by His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta in December last year. In his opening remarks the President observed that ‘it is sad to note that our continent’s share of the global tourism industry stands at 52.4 million or 5.1% of international arrivals, which translates to 33.6 billion US dollars or 3.1% of international tourism receipts.’ The IGAD STMP, among others, strongly recommends that member states align their respective tourism development instruments to the regional framework.
The formulation of the STMP for the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is indeed timely given the current prioritization of the industry in the country’s development agenda following the establishment of National Tourism Transformation Council, chaired by His Excellency the Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, and the Ethiopian Tourism Organization which is to spearhead tourism product development and marketing. The industry is, further, identified as a key sector in both the 1st and 2nd Growth and Transformation Plans. The identification of the sector as such is due its strong potential to bring about meaningful socio-economic development owing to the fact that such potential remains largely untapped. For instance, in terms of the prevailing cultural and heritage resources, the country is ranked at position 33 globally, above Egypt which is ranked 39th, and is regarded as one of the safest countries in the world. Yet, despite its current challenges, Egypt continues to draw over 9 million international tourist arrivals annually compared to the country’s 550 000 as of last year. Nonetheless, the industry still contributes 12.3% of the GDP, is a leading foreign exchange earner and a key sector for both domestic and foreign investment valued at ETB 16.38 billion in 2013. The industry is also a one of the leading employers generating over 2.4 million jobs both directly and indirectly. By embracing the IGAD STMP, which among others, advocates for both inter and intra-regional tourism, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is, therefore, undertaking bold steps in the right direction of regional integration through the promotion of trade in services and subsequently towards Continental Free Trade Area.