Djibouti, Ethiopia work together to attract tourists 

Osman Abdi Mohamed’s recent promotion to General Manager of Djibouti’s National Tourism Office should be a rewarding job as Djibouti’s government has high hopes for tourism, expecting it to become one of Djibouti’s major economic pillars within 20 years.

Tourism has such potential in the region that it shouldn’t take that long to see positive change, in the near future, Mr. Mohamed expects tourism revenue to increase dramatically.

“We plan for tourism to intertwine with other sectors to create more jobs for our youth and alleviate poverty,” he told Capital at his office.

To achieve this goal his government and the tourism office are working hard across the board to produce skilled labor, build infrastructure, and promote Djibouti, he said.

He expects the symbiotic relationship that Ethiopia and Djibouti have in other areas to continue in tourism as well.

Mr. Mohamed is optimistic that when Ethiopia and Djibouti work together, they will become remarkably successful.

He recalled that 24 years ago the two countries signed an agreement to work together on tourism.

“Refreshing the tourism cooperation agreement signed in 1993 is taking place, in addition there are several other joint ventures,” he added.

“Since we have worked together so well in so many other areas we can work together well in tourism too,” Mr. Mohamed exclaimed.

Cooperation

Experts at the National Tourism Office of Djibouti said that the country features a beautiful seaside, a beach and massive fish resources where people can see whale sharks and marine fauna of great beauty.

The issue has stoked the attention of Ethiopia and Djibouti’s political leaders since they have a symbiotic economic, political and social relationship.

During the latest joint Ministerial Commission Meeting held in Addis Ababa, tourism was one of the major topics, according to Mr. Mohamed.

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The General Manager said that the two countries signed a memorandum of understand (MoU) in 1993 on cooperation in tourism and in 2006, the two countries signed a new MoU to strengthen cooperation in the tourism sector. “They renewed that commitment during the latest meeting. The two countries came up with long term and short term goals to work together,” he remembered.

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They decided to focus on three areas: training, establishing a tourism package and joint promotion. To do this the two countries established a joint committee.

As a result, during a July meeting in Addis Ababa, the two countries agreed to establish a joint technical committee to work together more closely on tourism.

According to the Djibouti tourism head, at the last meetings of the joint commission, the two countries agreed to put in place a new plan of action.

The technical commission  is made up of three experts each from Djibouti and Ethiopia. Mr. Mohamed said that they will meet several times if necessary.

There will also be training for youth from Djibouti to study at the Ethiopian Hotel and Tourism Training Institute this year.

“The actions planned by the two countries has also included exchange of experience in the promotion and development of tourism,” he said.

The institute will train 50 Djiboutian students in catering and tourism. They will be able to earn a diploma in the stated subjects.

The committee has also drafted a joint action plan, and a tourist package has been established that will enable them to cooperate in the sector.

Djibouti and Ethiopia also agreed to jointly promote tourism at international events and help to promote the 372 km of coastline and other tourist sites by including the nation in Ethiopian tourism.

“For instance at an event that the Djibouti tourism sector participates in or in a tourism promotion that we carry out, we will also promote Ethiopian tourist destinations and in return Ethiopia will do the same for us,” Mohamed said.

“It is a good opportunity to promote the potential of the two neighbors using a single booth that can minimize the promotional cost and lure more tourists through a single promotion,” experts in Ethiopia explained.

The Tourism Office of Djibouti has also spoken with major tour operators in Ethiopia to assess possible ways to include Djibouti in their package as opposed to southern sea side destinations in Africa.

The Tourism Office has also invited Ethiopians working in the tourism industry to visit tourist attractions in Djibouti. “We are a lot closer than other southbound destinations and the aquatic life and beaches are very plentiful here in Djibouti,” a spokesperson of Djibouti’s tourism industry told Capital.

“Tourism will be the next area of economic cooperation between the two countries,” Mohamed noted.

New facilities and development

The new railway also should be a boon to tourism, according to Djibouti’s Chief of Tourism.

He said that the newly constructed state of the art railway facility will make it easier for people to visit both countries.

“More tourism opportunities will be created in relation with the inauguration of the railway for the tourism sector,” he expressed.

It previously took over 12 hours to travel 400km to Dire Dawa from the capital of Djibouti on the old railway line or buses. Today, this journey takes only 4 hours. “If you leave in the morning you will be in Dire Dawa for lunch,” said Mohamed, adding that though it will attract a different type of tourists, the railway will make it more affordable for people to visit the Djiboutian costal attractions.

This should mean more people opting for Djibouti instead of Zanzibar and Seychelles.

The other network is a road project connecting Dire Dawa, 500km east of Addis Ababa, with Djibouti City via highway. Besides the benefit of other economic activities like transporting cargo, the road will be another option for tourists who want to drive or travel via automobile to conclude their tour in Djibouti.

The recently reinvented Air Djibouti, is back since it was grounded in 2002, and is also expected to provide additional vigor to activate tourism flow between the two countries. The country is also constructing new airports to accommodate more tourists. The government is constructing 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 the near future 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. A New airport called Al Haj Ahmed Dini Ahmed

International Airport is also being built around the northern part of the country.

The government of Djibouti is working to attract investors in the hospitality industry and is trying hard to promote tourism.

Recently Boston Partners Plc and Dawit Gebre Egziabher received 653,000 square meters of land on Moucha Island, which is a 15 minute boat ride from Djibouti’s capital. The first phase of the 140 million birr resort is expected to be open for business within a few months, while the design will be the benchmark of Kuriftu Resort that was expanded in Ethiopia. Boston Partners plc also has a plan to establish a spa at Lac Assal.

In 2014 the government agreed with Shanghai based Touch Road International Holdings Group to construct luxury hotels on the islands of Ras Syan and Seven Brothers to the north of the country.

Experts said that these kinds of new facilities will create confidence in Ethiopian tour operators to include the Djibouti tourism destinations in their package.

Vision 2035

Djibouti’s whale sharks and marine fauna will attract tourists and Lac Assal’s Dead Sea, located around the Gulf of Ghoubet, Moucha Island, and RasSyan and Seven Brothers Volcanic Islands are beautiful natural sea side tourist attractions. Djibouti can offer visitors some of the best diving spots in the world, with its crystal-clear, warm waters. The marine ecosystem is very rich, with a very large number of fish species, while marine sports such as year round deep-sea fishing, canoe, windsurfing and kite surfing are also in vogue.

Currently the sector contributes about 1.5 percent of the GDP. Like Ethiopia the government of Djibouti and Tourism Office has projected an ambitious plan in the next two decades.

Tourists are also attracted by the hot weather and the culture in Djibouti, and there are a lot of business visitors.

According to Djibouti’s plan, by 2035 the target is to increase the revenue from tourism to 15 percent of the GDP.

“In the next five to ten years the tourism sector will contribute up to 5 percent of the GDP,” Mohamed 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. 62,000 tourists visited Djibouti in 2013.

According to the plan by 2035 the total number of tourists could reach half a million per annum by sticking to the strategy they have.

To achieve this goal several new developments like a 23 story building from construction giant China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) built at a cost of USD 70 million and a recreation center at the historical Port of Djibouti are expected to be completed in the next few years.

The two countries have massive similarities in history, culture and relationships. The symbolic destinations of Arthur Rimbaud, a French poet who is known for his influence on modern literature and arts who lived in Harar and became popular as a poet also lived in Tadjoura, a historical port that served as a distribution point for rifles and ammunition to Ethiopia in the 1880s. The two countries are inexorably linked and when they work together they can attract many tourists, earn a lot of money and create more jobs.