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Tourism Ministry reports USD 3.2bln revenues in nine months

Heads of the Ministry of Tourism find themselves in hot water following glaring discrepancies and erroneous data in a performance report presented to members of Parliament earlier this week.

Nasise Chali, minister of Tourism, told the parliamentary standing committee for trade and tourism affairs that her office had managed to attract 16 foreign investors to the Ethiopian tourism sector over the last nine months.

The figure, however, is in stark contrast to the data presented in an earlier report from the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC), which indicated that only one foreign investor had committed to Ethiopian tourism over the same period.

The Ministry’s report also contained incorrect data pertaining to resource mobilization. It claimed to have met 77 percent of plans to raise 75 million birr in support from overseas for capacity building initiatives, particularly from partner organizations and public relations services.

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Upon closer inspection, the data reveals that the actual progress stands at 46 percent or 34.6 million birr. The disparities prompted MPs to ask for a clarification on the accounting.

Parliamentarians urged the Ministry to reassess and clarify the contrasting figures in the performance report. Nasise said her office would be communicating with the EIC to straighten things out.

The questionable performance report indicates the Ethiopian tourism industry is making a gradual recovery from the effects of COVID-19 and the spate of internal conflicts that have gripped the country over the last few years.

It states that the country welcomed a little more than 861,000 foreign tourists over the nine-month period, generating USD 3.2 billion in revenue. It is USD 300 million short of what the Ministry expected to see, but slightly up from the USD 3.06 billion collected from 774,000 foreign tourists over the same period last year.

The figure, however, is in contrast with reports from popular tourist destinations in the country, many of which find themselves in the grips of insecurity.

A veteran tour guide operating in Lalibela told The Reporter in March this year that the town, home to rock-hewn churches that have long been a top tourist attraction in the country, has seen visitor arrivals dwindle from an estimated 50,000 a year to fewer than 100 as a result of armed conflict and a state of emergency in the Amhara region.

Still, the Ministry reported that 30.5 million domestic tourists contributed close to 49 billion birr to the economy over the last nine months. Nasise says it is only half a million domestic tourists less than anticipated by the Ministry.

The reported shortfall in domestic visitor numbers has been attributed to security concerns at popular tourist destinations, highlighting the need for enhanced safety measures and infrastructure development, the Minister said.

According to Nasise, a new project to establish a centralized statistics collection and data management system for the tourism sector is underway in collaboration with the Ministry of Planning and Development headed by Fitsum Assefa (PhD).

The Minister elaborated on plans to update tourism data systems, assess the sector’s contribution to GDP, and establish a joint tourism statistics system in collaboration with the Ministry of Planning and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

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