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Addis Abeba, January 10/2018 – As part of the official visit of the Prime Minister of Ireland Leo Varadkar to Ethiopia, Prime Minister Varadkar and the Ethiopian Minister for Culture and Tourism Hirut Kassaw (PhD), visited the Lalibela UNESCO World Heritage Site today and announced a new cultural heritage tourism partnership between Ireland and Ethiopia.

Speaking after visiting the Lalibela UNESCO Heritage Site, Prime Minister Varadkar said: “Following my visit to the Lalibela UNESCO World Heritage site today, I am delighted to announce a new partnership between Ethiopia and Ireland in cultural heritage tourism.”

According to PM Varadkar, this will consist of a series of exchanges and experience sharing between Irish and Ethiopian institutions, focused on cultural heritage tourism and rural job creation through tourism. “[Dr Hirut Kassaw] will visit Ireland this spring to meet with relevant tourism and cultural heritage bodies in Ireland, including Failte Ireland and OPW, and finalize a program of experience sharing between Ireland and Ethiopia,” he said.

Ireland stated that Ireland and Ethiopia already have an existing partnership on cultural heritage tourism and there have been a number of exchanges between the two countries, including between tourism officials from Newgrange in Ireland and Axum in Ethiopia. “This new program will deepen the partnership in 2019 and 2020 in an area that is vital for Ethiopia’s economic growth and job creation targets.

“I am also very pleased to announce that Lalibela will join the 2019 ‘Global Greening’ and, along with hundreds of other iconic monuments and cultural heritage sites across the world, will go green on St Patrick’s Day 2019, to mark the deep friendship between the Ethiopian and Irish people and 25 years of diplomatic relations,” PM Varadkar said.

On her part Hirut Kassaw said that she was delighted to have accompanied the Irish Prime Minister to the Lalibela UNESCO Heritage Site to show him some of the extraordinary cultural and historical riches that Ethiopia has to offer. “I look forward to my visit to Ireland and to leading this new partnership on cultural heritage tourism. Tourism and culture have huge potential to drive economic growth and jobs in Ethiopia, particularly in rural areas. Ireland attracts almost double its population in tourists each year and we will look at examples of best practice in cultural heritage tourism and rural job creation through tourism in Ireland and apply relevant lessons to our strategy in Ethiopia.”

A statement from the embassy of Ireland in Addis Abeba states that like Ethiopia, Ireland is home to ancient UNESCO heritage sites, some of which date back to 3200 BC. “Ireland has developed effective tourism strategies to ensure that these heritage sites, and the rich histories behind them, are made accessible to a wide audience, while also safeguarding and protecting these sites.”

Rural job creation has been central to Ireland’s tourism development and tourism has played a key important role in Ireland’s economic growth. More than 11 million people visiting in 2018, almost double the population of the island of Ireland. “Total annual tourism revenue in Ireland amounts to approximately €6bn and accounts for in excess of 4% of GDP,” the statement said. AS  

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