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The newly-established Master of Tourism and Development Program of Addis Ababa University is underperforming as a result of lack of recognition and support.
Addis Ababa University (AAU), in collaboration with Mekele University, has been working on the mapping of tourism attractions and collation of data on tourism resources, developing and proposing implementation packages for the last ten successive years. As a result, a gap in trained manpower in tourism development has been identified. This, in turn, led to the launch of the Masters Curriculum in Tourism and Development in 2009.
Under this program, two classes have graduated in 2011 and 2012, the third batch, which includes 52 students, is still attending classes. However, the program is deemed to be underperforming. “It has been four years since the MA program was launched,” said Mulugeta Fisseha (PhD), Associate Professor for the Department of Earth Sciences of the College of Development Studies at AAU. “It could have been supported and expanded more; a bigger institution usually commands the necessary attention,” he said. According to Mulugeta, the accomplishments of this program should be given the necessary recognition by respective bodies, which would aid in the program’s ultimate goal. “By now, it could have been expanded to a college or at least an institution level. If this has happened, we could have had access to more skilled manpower, more budget and more resources,” Mulugeta informed Capital in an exclusive interview. “We are really moving at a slow pace currently,” he added. This, according to Mulugeta, has limited the contribution the program would have made to the development of manpower for the tourism sector, which is one of the major challenges facing the industry. The program is supported by the Development Partnership in Higher Education (DePHE). Mulugeta said that DePHE has helped the University expand its collaborations with others and developed a project on sustainable Ethiopian Tourism Development with the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and Moi University of Kenya.
As part of the end of the DePHE, an international conference entitled, “Tourism and Community Development in Ethiopia: A Turning Point”, had been convened by AAU, SOAS, and Moi on 19-20 April at the Radisson Blu. The conference was attended by academicians, government officials, international organizations, students, and other stakeholders of tourism from around the world.
At the international conference, discussions were held  on the history of tourism, ecotourism and geoparks, paleao and archaeology based tourism, park tourism, pilgrimage, ancient cities and tourism, conference tourism, rural tourism, art and cultural industries-related tourism, Ethiopia’s diverse tourism routes, community-awareness training on resources and services, tourism development in Sub Saharan Africa in an age of transition, the role of intergovernmental relations in tourism development, entrepreneurial and small scale tourism business development, guides and guiding, tourist service, customer care and quality assurance, promotion and marketing, the role of Ethiopian Airlines in Ethiopia’s tourism development, tour operation, tourism and globalization, conservation efforts, managing conflicts between developing sustainable tourism projects and conservation, over the two-day conference. On top of the lack of skilled manpower, the Ethiopian tourism sector is faced with inadequate and inefficient promotion, lack of coordination, quality services and strong policies, lack of implementation of rules, regulations and standards, as well as a lack of appropriate and comprehensive scientific database, attendants of the conference said. “We always talk about the history, the archaeology etc. But so far, nothing has been addressed or approached scientifically,” said Mulugeta “Though we have a policy regarding tourism, a lot of work needs to be done by strategic planning, including involvement at the community level,” he added. DePHE is funded by the Department for International Development (DfID) of the United Kingdom (UK) and managed by the British Council. This project was launched in 2006 to build the capacity of institutions of higher education which play a very important role in alleviating poverty in developing countries and provide the opportunity for close collaboration between universities in the North, which are well developed, with the South, which needs support in terms of exposure to best practices and international experience. The total fund allocated for this year’s  program was 15 million pound sterling. Out of this, over a quarter of a million has been allocated for programs in Ethiopia. “We have about 13 development partnership programs in Ethiopia.  Some of them are in the energy sector, education, tourism, peace and security studies, human rights, and so on,” said Dagnachew Desta, Project Director of DePHE at the British Council.  
According to Dagnachew, the British Council is well situated to win the bid for managing the programs. “Definitely, there will be a second round of DePHE program for Ethiopia. Only the focus might change a little bit from the MDGs”.