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Ethiopia’s tourism sector is projected to reach 9 percent of the country’s GDP by 2024, according to the new Tourism Master Plan 2015-2025 which was developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The Master Plan is that is developed to guide tourism activities in the country highlights the current status of the sector, its weaknesses as well as strengths to be competitive with other advanced markets in the region and world.

The Master Plan was handed over to Minister of Culture and Tourism Aisha Mohammed Mussa last week, by the deputy executive secretary of ECA Giovanie Biha who applauded Ethiopia’s efforts to boost tourism, which she described as a sector that could speed up the much-needed structural transformation in Africa.

“In 2015, the value of the industry in Africa stood at over USD 180 billion, accounting for 8 percent of the continent’s GDP. This exceeds the contributions from manufacturing and the banking sector,” stated Biha.

In 2011, ECA commissioned a study to examine opportunities and challenges of tourism in Eastern Africa.  The study concluded, among other things, that a regional framework to address challenges facing tourism in the region was needed. Based on this recommendation, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) created a master plan with technical support from ECA.

Ethiopia’s Tourism Master Plan focuses on ten pillars which include; policy regulation and institutional framework, tourism product development, tourism marketing, branding and promotion, investment in tourism facilities and services as well as human resource development.

Looking at weaknesses in the sector, the master plan identifies that there is currently poor management of natural, cultural and historical attractions and no special attention is given to UNESCO World Heritage Sites in terms of site based management and destination management organization.

Furthermore, the Master Plan points out that poor and uneven distribution of tourist services and facilities and services for visitors such as toilets, shops, drinks and resting areas is an issue while there is a lack of workable regulations regarding revenue generated from the tourism industry.

The implementation of the fifteen year strategic Master Plan is expected to consume around 5.306 billion birr.