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Potential tourism giant finally takes aim at world markets

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Like it happened in neighboring Kenya, this African country is now also reveling in the global spotlight after also welcoming its first sitting US President.

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Like it happened in neighboring Kenya, this African country is now also reveling in the global spotlight after also welcoming its first sitting US President.

Barrack Obama’s Air Force One landed in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia yesterday late afternoon after he left the Kenyan capital of Nairobi soon after 1600 hours local time for his 0140 hours flight to Ethiopia’s capital city.

President Obama is expected to address the African Union (AU) today as part of his two-day visit and like he did in Kenya, he is often mixing his candid observations with humor, never shy to call a spade a spade. He is expected to tell those present at the AU some harsh truths about opening up political spaces, embracing press freedom – of particular importance vis-a-vis his hosts – and respective human rights. The just ended #GES2015 – Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi – made it obvious that rapid economic development takes roots faster in an open society than when political spaces remain closed and human and political rights are oppressed.

While the Ethiopian social media scene is nothing like the one in Kenya, where the so called #KOTs, aka Kenyans on Twitter, went into warp speed mode and gave the country a top global trending position during the Obama visit, tourism marketers are nevertheless expected to make some hay out of his presence.

Over the past two years, Ethiopian tourism has taken a hard look at its own performance, which lagged way behind the country’s true potential, despite national airline Ethiopian being Africa’s most profitable airline with the widest network reach across the globe.

For long keener on transit traffic, this has now changed as destination Ethiopia is waking from its slumber and working hard to showcase the country’s undisputed attractions to the world, bringing tourist dollars into the country instead of just flying them to hitherto more popular tourism locations on the continent.

From the five main game parks to the Blue Nile and its falls, cataracts and adventure activities like rafting to the ancient ruins and monuments which document the country’s rich history, Ethiopia is today aiming to claim a fair share of Africa’s tourism arrivals. While much needs to be done to fully operationalize the country’s new tourism policy and marketing strategy, an earnest start has been made. The formal launch, with the support of United Nations Development Program (UNDP), of the Ethiopian Tourism Organization on July 1 last year was a milestone step into that direction and ambitious targets were set, to double tourism arrivals from a mere half a million to a million in the short term, earning a round figure of three billion US dollars from the sector.

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