A recent eye catching article in the Independent featuring Simiens Lodge (hosting Africa’s highest bar) and Lake Tana also described Ethiopia’s stunning wildlife, including pink flamingos. irate hippos and elusive leopards. The piece also highlighted the importance of and potential for ecotourism to help drive growth in emerging economies.
Countries like Kenya and Tanzania have long attracted visitors to see the big five safari animals which helps to preserve these and many other animals in their natural habitats. Now countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda and others in Africa have stepped up their efforts to attract visitors who provide a supply of hard currency and the incentive to preserve and protect forests, jungle and wildlife. Although many visitors will be put off by security concerns and the relative obscurity of some countries, it doesn’t take too long for a country to gain reputation as a spectacular new destination if the right infrastructure is in place.
Ethiopia has the ark of covenant trail which is the picturesque route supposedly taken by the famous biblical relic. Tourists on the trail can see Ethiopia’s spectacular natural splendour, mountains, lakes and breath taking vistas well as its cultural legacy of churches borne from its unique strand of Christianity which developed remotely from the mainstream in Europe.
The country has many other attractions such as the Omo valley, the Danakil Depression and Bale Mountains. The country also hosts unique wildlife such as the Gelada Monkey, Ethiopian Wolf and Walia Ibex. Ethiopia’s relative proximity to Europe and the Middle East should make it a popular destination. Ecotourism can be a major source of revenue for developing nations but often finds it difficult to promote and protect its interests thanks to the fragmented nature of the industry.
The Ethiopian government perhaps inspired by other Africa countries has put together a plan for encouraging tourism and set an ambitious target to attract five million international visitors by 2025. The Ethiopian economy has long been a strong performer as its Beijing inspired state led model has tried to push industrialism and attract clothing manufacturers but the governments cannot rely on one sector alone to thrive.
At its best ecotourism should be able to provide livelihoods for local people in a sustainable manner and allowing them overcome poverty but also helps to enhance and protect the environment and promotes biodiversity as well as promoting inter cultural understanding. Hopefully ecotourism can develop along these lines in Ethiopia and other African countries.