Hello, and welcome to ILO's Future of Work podcast.
I'm Belinda Japhet, your host for today, and I'm joining you from Tanzania.
Today, we will be looking at how Ethiopia is restructuring its tourism sector
and what opportunities this poses for its people.
Ethiopia boasts a wide array of tourist destinations,
from archaeological and heritage sites, national and conservation parks,
to music and cultural festivals.
Ethiopia is positioning itself as a major tourist destination
and its government has reviewed and updated the country's tourism policy
to reflect this.
The tourism sector is now one of five priority sectors
in the country's 10-year plan and is expected to be
a major source of revenue and employment in the country.
However, there are some obstacles challenging the sector's development.
Today's special guest, Mr. Tewodros Derbew from Ethiopia
has played a key role in updating his country's tourism policy
and sector in general.
Mr. Tewodros is a strategic team leader and coordinator
at the Ministry of Tourism in Ethiopia and he will be updating us
on some of the great developments in his country's tourism sector.
Mr. Tewodros, thank you so much for joining us today, and welcome.
Thank you. It's my pleasure having you and joining this discussion.
It's great to have you, and very timely too as well.
Maybe you could start by introducing yourself to us briefly
and giving us a brief overview of your vast experience working
in Ethiopia's tourism sector.
Okay, thank you. I have been working in the Ethiopian tourism sector
for the last 15 years at different capacities.
I joined the Ministry of Culture and Tourism,
the former federal executive institution, which was tasked to develop
and administer tourism in Ethiopia.
So, I joined as a junior expert and served as a director of tourist services,
competency, and grading directorates,
and then I transferred to the new ministry, that's the Ministry of Tourism,
which is an independent institution tasked to develop Ethiopian tourism
in a competitive and sustainable manner.
Thank you. 15 years is a long time to specialize in a specific sector.
This makes you the perfect person for me to ask this question.
What exactly makes Ethiopia such a unique tourist destination
in the world right now?
Ethiopia. There are some affiliations that may spring into people's mind
when they hear the name Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is a country endowed with marvelous cultural wealth
and stunning natural beauties that can offer seamless experiences
to tourists and provide tourism investors with immense investment opportunities.
Ethiopia is known for ancient history and age-old absorbing traditions.
Ethiopia is home to cultural diversity, hosting more than 80 ethnic groups,
meaning these ethnic groups have their own way of life,
their language, tradition, and customs.
In addition, Ethiopia is also known for spectacular geographic formations
and incredible geological resources.
Our culinary tradition is quite unique and can provide tourists
with immersive experiences.
From farm to fork, we can think of our culinary tradition
as quite an impressive tourism resource.
Moreover, Ethiopia is only beyond imagining.
This has created an opportunity for Ethiopia to promote
in the market diverse resources from the Aksum Stelae,
that's in the Northern part of Ethiopia,
to the miraculously build Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela,
the Medieval Castle of Gondar.
The three are called heritage sites.
Ethiopia with its fabulous history of 3,000 years.
Wow, that is a wide array of attractions.
I’m, actually, quite interested in coming there myself.
It looks like a lot of people would be depending on this sector
for their livelihoods.
Could you tell us who exactly depends on the sector?
The majority of the workforce is the youth and women.
In terms of gender, 30% of the workforce comprises women
and the 70% are men.
There are about 1.5 million people employed in the tourism sector.
Of course, from five-star hotels, high-end facilities
to the low traditional service providers, that's the traditional coffee providers.
More than 60% of the tourism business is operated
by the small and medium enterprises in Ethiopia.
Even there are people who rent mule, especially for trekking
and other adventure-based tourism activities.
More importantly, as Ethiopia is rich in tradition and culture,
there are different kinds of handicraft products.
So, a number of souvenir shops are there.
There are operated mostly by the youth and women.
They're totally more than 1.5 million people are working
in the tourism industry at this and in other parts of the country,
especially at the destinations.
Now, because it's such a big sector,
I'm sure the effects of COVID-19 have been quite great.
How has the tourism sector been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Tourism was heavily stricken by the COVID pandemic because,
as you know, COVID has affected both the supply side and the demand side.
It affected the source market, like Europe and America, Asia,
and also it is a global problem.
Ethiopian tourism has been heavily affected by the COVID pandemic.
If you look at pre pandemic level, 2019, more than $3 billion
was obtained from the tourism industry, but there has been a decline of 72%
since the outbreak of the pandemic.
We lost a huge amount of dollars from the industry
and the volume of tourists has declined by 74%.
You can imagine how big the impact of COVID-19 was.
There was massive loss of jobs, hundreds of thousands of jobs
were at risk, loss of foreign exchange and tourism revenues,
tourism investment has been seriously inhibited,
skill migration for other sectors were also a trade,
investment migration to some extent, and generally,
tourism's contribution to employment and GDP has declined.
By the way, to add an injury to a scar, Ethiopian tourism was not only affected
by the COVID pandemic, but it was also highly affected
by the Northern war in the country.
Tourism has been gravely affected by this two phenomena,
but there is hope at the end of the tunnel.
The government is working to make the sector revive.
The government is working to make the sector recover
and trying to protect jobs created in the sector.
There are sound initiatives that would help to ensure resilience
of the sector in the country.
Could you give us maybe one or two other points
on exactly what the government is doing to help the country
to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic?
The first measure the government has taken was access to loan.
The government has tried to provide loans with low-interest rate.
This helped to hotels and similar establishments to retain their staff.
The other one, there are, of course, some support, especially
for vulnerable communities, both material and financial support,
but due to the limited capacity of the government,
it was not as large as it was expected to be.
There were efforts to specially help people protect
from sinking psychologically and physically.
There are this measures.
The Ministry of Tourism designed the recovery plan
which would be implemented for three months.
This basically focuses on stimulating the domestic tourism
sector until international tourism resumes.
You've touched on what the future looks like
for the European tourism sector or what the government
is working towards.
More specifically, what kind of impact do you hope it will have
on the people working in the sector, these structural changes
that the government is making?
Our main focus is our policy initiatives or reform activities
are geared toward improving the quality of life of the communities.
Creating decent and sustainable jobs, generating foreign exchange,
and also, sound use of ecological resources.
We're just moving to ensuring sustainable form of tourism development,
tourism enterprises that would balance the social, cultural, economic,
and environmental impacts of tourism development.
This policies revision basically addresses the issue of community
engagement and benefit.
It would engage and empower the private sector,
not the way we used to think, but in a way that would empower,
that would meaningfully strengthen the private sector.
The role of the government will at the same time be strengthened.
The policy will help us to save jobs.
It would address issues related to operation or generation of new jobs.
It would also improve the overall competitiveness of the tourism sector
in a way that would offer seamless experiences to tourists,
profitable businesses to the tourism business suppliers,
and benefiting the community.
Ensuring of competitive and outcome-based marketing promotion activities
is another area of focus.
Digitalization and innovation across the tourism sector
is also one of the strategic pillars of the policy.
The last one is sustainability, community involvement
for sustainable tourism development.
We need to make sure that people benefit from the tourism activities
and people should obtain the well-deserved benefits
from what they contribute to the tourism sector.
Communities are put up at the epicenter of tourism development
in this policy.
Could you give us maybe a bit more detail on exactly
how Ethiopia's new tourism policy is focusing on sustainability?
Maybe just one area where you're putting down very sustainable routes
where the sector can really thrive in the future.
We would like to develop destinations in a way that would conserve
our resources, that would take into account local culture,
that would take into account the natural setting.
we mean we'll be developing our resources in a judicious way,
putting the communities at the epicenter of any tourism activity.
The other aspect is tourism businesses.
There would be standards and guidelines for sustainability.
Tourism businesses, generally the private sector, would implement
In such standards, we'll be able to create sustainable jobs,
we'll benefit the communities sustainably.
There are, of course, many points that this sustainability would address,
and the policy has given sufficient attention to this strategic issue.
I would assume that young people are interested in working
in the tourism sector in Ethiopia.
What is the government doing to create more skills development
for young people who work in the tourism sector?
In the short term,
the government has designed a program in corporation
with training institutions and both middle-level and higher-level training
institutions to identify knowledge and skill gaps.
Anyway, training programs are being designed to deliver something
that would help the young people to work on the industry.
Of course, given the youth can create opportunities,
can employ themselves,
there are many business opportunities in the sector.
In the short term,
the government is trying to fix the problem by providing
a number of short-term and tailor-made training programs.
In the long run, the government is working on designing
a focused human resource development strategy for tourism.
This strategy would help the industry to feel, especially to balance
the demand for and supply of skilled manpower for tourism.
With regards to the work that ILO is doing with the government of Ethiopia
in this area, what has been the impact of the collaboration
between the government and ILO,
especially under maybe the Global Program on Skills Development
and Lifelong Learning, in creating employment for young people
in the tourism sector?
What have you started seeing the impact of this program
in creating more skills development?
Once ILO started supporting the human resource development,
the skills development aspect, for example,
there are significant improvements in the area of hotel operation,
tour operation, tour guiding, food preparation.
This has been achieved because the curriculums were designed
in cooperation with ILO in a way that would match the expectations
of the industry people.
There are positive results and we strongly hope that ILO
would strengthen partnerships that would help the tourism sector
to produce competitive manpower.
Yes, I think you've touched on some very key issues,
especially the issue of practical training being such a perfect fit
for the tourism sector.
How do you think the future of tourism and tourism skill development
will look like in the future both globally and locally in Ethiopia?
There are some key trends that we can understand globally,
the number of young people is growing at an increasing rate,
especially in Ethiopia.
Close to 70% Ethiopia population consists of the youth.
The future of the global tourism industry,
one is the increasing impact of the young population,
and the other one is the digitization, all the digital platforms.
The digital platform has disrupted everything.
It has fundamentally changed the way we conduct business.
It has fundamentally changed the way we promote, we develop destinations.
These two things are interrelated.
If Ethiopia is to survive in the tourism market,
Ethiopia should respond to the needs of the youth, on one hand,
and should also develop its destination in a manner
that would satisfy the emerging needs and preference
of the young population globally, and the same old story
in the area of digitization.
It will continue to be a story of those who are prepared,
those who are not, and those who managed to adopt the change
Thank you so much, Mr. Tewodros, for your time and thank you
for your insight into the sector and into the sector in Ethiopia and looking forward
to hearing more things about the amazing future that lies ahead
for Ethiopia's tourism sector.
From me, Belinda Japhet,
that's all for today's edition of Future of Work podcast.
Thank you and goodbye.