ETHIOPIA: Tourism to be harnessed for poverty alleviation
ADDIS ABABA, 17 November 2004 (IRIN) - Ethiopia is to become one of the first countries to be targeted under a United Nations scheme harnessing the country’s tourism potential in order to tackle entrenched poverty.
Francesco Frangialli, secretary general of the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) announced on Tuesday that Ethiopia would benefit from a WTO-led, development-friendly, tourism scheme. The Sustainable Tourism Eliminating Poverty initiative focuses on encouraging sustainable tourism – social, economic and ecological – to ease poverty.
"It will target the world's poorest countries, particularly in Africa and developing states in general," Frangialli told IRIN at the opening of a three-day tourism conference in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia, with its seven world-heritage sites, is a magnate for tourists, he said.
The WTO, which was accepted as a UN specialised agency late last year, argues that tourism is an effective weapon in helping underdeveloped nations achieve the 2015 anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals. Globally, the tourism industry has created 100,000 new jobs a year, accounting for 11 percent of global employment.
"Tourism is the only service industry where there is a positive balance of trade flowing from first world to third world countries," Frangialli added. Cities like Addis Ababa, he said, where half of young people account for about 50 percent of the population, could reap enormous rewards from growth in the tourist sector.
According to the WTO, 50 of the world’s poorest nations rank tourism in their top three income sources, attracting vital foreign exchange.
"There is growing awareness about the economic importance of the tourism sector," Frangialli said, warning that tourism has negative effects if not properly managed.
The new initiative will offer technical and operational expertise, promote quality ethics and practices, and establish a unit to attract funding for tourism proposals.
Tourism features Ethiopia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) that aims to combat poverty and encourage development in the Horn-of-Africa nation. The government has revamped its regional airports, is restoring historical sites and offers visas upon entry to the country in a bid to attract more tourists. Last year, according to the tourism commission, some 180,000 people visited the country generating US $80 million.
Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Girogis said at the conference that tourism promoted greater integration.
"Ethiopia has once again become keenly aware of its immense development potential in tourism and efforts are underway to exploit that potential in the best interests if its people," he noted.