Ethiopia to feature Djibouti in tourism promotions

Ethiopia and Djibouti are teaming up to promote tourism in the two countries. The National Tourism Authority of Djibouti is asking Ethiopia to help promote their 372km of coastline and other touristic sights by including the nation in Ethiopian tourism packages.
Mohamed Abdillahi Waiss, Director General of the National Tourism Authority of Djibouti, says the country’s seaside resorts and attractions can lure the same cliental as Ethiopia.
“People who visit Ethiopia often travel southward to other African countries like Zanzibar and Mombasa, but what we have is just as interesting,” he said.
“Djibouti has many tourist attraction sites and cultural relics that are very unique,” Tadios Belete, head of Boston Partners plc who is investing in Djibouti’s hospitality industry, explained.
“We are very close to Ethiopia, in fact it takes the same amount of time to fly from Addis to Djibouti as it does to fly within Ethiopia,” Tadios said. “It is a good opportunity for us and other Ethiopian tour operators to include Djibouti in their package as opposed to other destinations that are far away,” the authority head added.
He recalled that the two governments (Ethiopia and Djibouti) had signed a protocol agreement to facilitate development of their tourism sectors.
“We are trying to get the public and private sector to include Djibouti in their menu of tourism features,” he added. According to Mohamed, the private sector has support from the two governments.
Two weeks ago Ethiopian tour operators led by president of the Ethiopian Tour Operators Association visited Djibouti’s potential to include it in the Ethiopian tour operators’ packages. “It is a win-win game for both of us (Ethiopia and Djibouti) to benefit from the tourism potential here if they include the country with their package,” the tourism authority head said.
“I believe Ethiopia will benefit if we include Djibouti in our tourism sector. Because the other destinations located in eastern and southeastern Africa are far from here. So in collaboration with Ethiopian Airlines we will offer a deal to attract tourists to Djibouti,” he said.
“In fact they will benefit because the tourism flow to Ethiopia will grow significantly,” Tadios said.
Even though Djibouti has several tourist attractions such as being one of the very few destinations in the world where the Whale Shark can be viewed, their infrastructure has to develop, according to Tadios.
International naval forces that have their bases in Djibouti occupy most of the current facilities, he said.
A decade ago the number of tourists who visited Djibouti was 2,000 annually, and that number is growing by 300 percent every year. In 2013 the number of tourists that visited the country was 62,000. 
“However, this number is still very small,” Mohamed said. He thinks that by 2035 the total number of tourists could reach half a million per annum by sticking to the strategy they have.
Currently the revenue from tourism contributes around three percent of Djibouti’s GDP. “By 2035 our target is to increase the revenue from tourism to 15 percent of the GDP,” Mohamed told Capital.
“We are planning to invite investors because we need a lot of infrastructure. The occupancy rate of the hotels in Djibouti is more than 90 percent. It means we need more hospitality facilities here,” Mohamed said.  
Currently the tourism destinations in Djibouti mainly are in the coastal areas and islands. These are expanding through the private sector and the authority itself.
For instance recently a new resort facility has been inaugurated in the northern beach at the Gulf of Tadjoura in the presence of President Ismail Omar Guelleh.
Sables Blancs Resort that commenced the hospitality business with camping and a hotel in 1998 has expanded their recreation center with various facilities. Hasna Omar Houssein, assistant manager of Sables told Capital that the resort receives a steady flow of tourists from around the world.
The government is also in the process of establishing a standard air port at Ras Siyan, in the Obock region in northern Djibouti, which is close to Strait of Bab el-Mandeb, at a cost of USD 200 million. When the airport starts giving service in 2016 it will have a capacity of handling 350,000 passengers per year and that number should expand to 767,400 passengers by 2021.
According to the plan the airport will be a tourism hub.
The government has several incentives for investors who want to engage in tourism. Tadios said that his company received a tax holiday for ten years, and their land lease will be settled after the groundwork has been completed.
According to the officials, another incentive is allowing the duty free import of construction equipment.
Tadios added that, even though he was visiting Djibouti for the past about three years he was convinced by Djama M. Haid, former Governor of the Central Bank of Djibouti. “The president has highly supported our investment in the country,” he said.
He received the plot about four months ago at Moucha Island, which is a 15 minute boat ride from Djibouti’s capital.
He and his partner Dawit GebreEgziabher received 653,000 square meters of land on the island.
The 140 million birr resort is expected to be open for business within six months. Currently the project is being done by Swedish firm, Sib Con, while the design will be the benchmark of Kuriftu.
Tadios said that his company Boston Partners plc also has a plan to establish a spa at Lac Assal, a salt lake located around Gulf of Ghoubet.
“I believe the number of tourists from Ethiopia will grow along with the new infrastructure in Djibouti,” he explained.