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The Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority announced on Wednesday that it has developed a new strategy to increase wildlife tourism in Ethiopia.
It includes plans to enhance visitor services in the country’s parks and aims to make Ethiopian protected wildlife areas a prime eco-tourism destination.
During the launch last week, attended by tour operators investors and representatives of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), questions were raised about previous efforts to boost Ethiopian eco-tourism and protect the country’s parks and wildlife.
“Ethiopia does have a huge potential for wildlife tourism. We need to sell what we have advantageously – that is why we are launching this marketing strategy,” said Ewnetu Bilata, Director General of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA)
Questions focused on poor facilities inside parks, inadequate information for travelers as well as fencing around parks to provide security and keep animals from leaving.
“Fencing is a really big issue. None of the parks in Ethiopia are fenced, thus bringing security issues as well as animals leaving. This needs to be taken into account by the government, if we want to increase wildlife tourism,” said Yenealem Getachew, Tour Operators Association Board Member.
Yenealem went on to say that parks lack basic facilities such as properly-surfaced roads, accommodation and clean rest rooms.
“When tourists think of Ethiopian parks, they expect them to be like parks found in Kenya or Tanzania, but in reality it is far from it,” he said.
The new marketing strategy will work on enhancing the quality of tourism services and look for ways to lengthen tourists’ stay in the different parks.
“Tourists come here with so much expectation, but the facilities are so poor that they don’t want to stay for more than a couple of days. It is very embarrassing to not be able to produce clean and functioning rest rooms. Another problem is the people who are living within the parks. For example, when you look at Awash park, it is noticeable that people living there have put pressure on the environment,” Yenealem explained.
He also said communities living close to and inside parks should be included in the plan to increase tourism, so as they benefit from it.
“When communities are involved and they are given the chance to administer their surroundings, if they are educated on what it means to conserve the animals and the environment as well as when they start benefiting from tourists visiting, they will become more responsible,” Yenealem also explained.
People at the meeting also raised concerns about the falling number of animals in Ethiopia’s parks.
“If you went to Awash park about eight or nine years ago, you would have been able to spot the wild life but now, it seems as though there is nothing left,” said Yenealem.
He also said animals are mistreated by people who live in the parks, as they are afraid the animals would attack their livestock.