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Roots of Ethiopia, a new website which showcases and promotes a wide range of community and sustainable tourism opportunities in Ethiopia was launched on Thursday April 5th 2012 at Radisson Blu Hotel. The website will serve as a clearinghouse, linking many community tourism destinations throughout Ethiopia so people can find various community tourism options in one place. It also offers basic information about traveling to and within Ethiopia including facts on history, culture, food and language in order to give tourists a taste of the country.
Community tourism attempts to benefit local communities by giving them ownership over touring programs.
Indigenous people could host tourists in their village or the community could run the operation together and share in the profits. There are several types of community tourism projects, including many in which local people work with commercial tour operators. The goal of ‘community based tourism’ is to give local people a fair share of the benefits/profits and a say in deciding how incoming tourism is managed.
“Ethiopia is blessed with many tourist attractions, some of which are world recognized. UNESCO has recognized nine sites in Ethiopia as world heritage sites making the country the leading one in the continent. We are working to make Ethiopia one of the top five destinations in Africa by the year 2020. We are certain that this website will contribute to this effort,” Tadelech Dalacho, State Minister of Tourism said.
The website, www.rootsofethiopia.com provides information about the weather, food, language and culture as well as describing the activities people can participate in. It also includes accommodations both with the community and self-lodging. It describes emerging tourist destinations that have not yet reached the guidebooks. Some tours will begin at the end of April and beginning of May.
At the launch of the website, representatives from USAID, Ethiopian Sustainable tourism Alliance (EATA), Ethiopian tour agencies and State Minister of Tourism, Tadelech Dalacho were present.
“A negative image of Ethiopia still prevails in different countries and in the minds of potential tourists. We hope that this website will provide accurate and useful information and contribute to the closing of the information gap,” said Bedilu Shegen, Chief of Party of the Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Alliance (ESTA).
Those involved in the process of developing the website also explained at the launch that community tourism is an important element of creating successful tourism destinations since it provides meaningful and authentic experiences for both the tourist and the communities. During a community tourism experience, tourists have the opportunity to interact with community members in a genuine manner.
Tourism provides alternative livelihoods for communities, providing direct employment and an important source of income. When the community receives money from tourists, it gives them an incentive to protect the natural and cultural resource that tourists come to see.
“The Internet is a key place to find information. Last year about 75 million people were estimated to have gone on the Internet to get information about their holiday destination in order to plan their vacation. A website like this will need to be updated constantly to be sustainable, tourism is a very competitive business, and there are a lot of websites that do the same thing as the roots of Ethiopia website. The key is to maintain the update of new information as fast as possible,” Mark Carrato, representative from USAID said.
The website initiative has been led by the Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Alliance (ESTA) a five year USAID-funded project in partnership with two other organizations working towards community development: Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternative (Tesfa).