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Ethiopia Expects to Attract More Chinese Tourists, Official Says

Efforts are underway to create a conducive environment for Chinese tourists so as to tap into the huge Chinese tourism market, said Lelise Duga, commissioner of Ethiopia’s Oromia Tourism Commission.

“China is a big tourism market. We want to utilize this potential through building our capacities, including serving Chinese visitors with their language and working jointly with their government,” Duga told Xinhua in a recent interview.

She said the number of Chinese tourists visiting the Oromia region has increased significantly after the Chinese government announced a list of priority countries for its citizens to visit in Africa and beyond.

Duga said more than 20,000 Chinese tourists have in the past three months visited the tourist destinations in Oromia, the largest region in the East African nation, and about half of them were visitors working in various companies in Ethiopia.

“The new market for us is China and the Middle East, whose citizens have increasingly become fond of traveling to different parts of the world, especially to Africa,” Duga told Xinhua, attributing the surge in the inflow of Chinese tourists to the region to the ever-rising Chinese economy and their standard of living.

Noting that Chinese companies have been strategic partners in the development of tourist sites in the region, Duga said Chinese firms have been involved in the construction of roads leading to tourist destinations and tourist facilities, including Wenchi, a beautiful volcanic crater lake with natural forests, hot springs and waterfalls, some 98 km west of the country’s capital of Addis Ababa.

The commissioner said the Oromia Tourism Commission has prepared local tour guides who can speak Mandarin (standard Chinese language) and Chinese tour operators as part of efforts to attract more tourists from China.

According to the commissioner, Batu, a beautiful scenic spot on the shore of Lake Zeway, which is blessed with a fresh supply of tasty fish and is located 167 km east of Addis Ababa, is the most frequently visited site by Chinese tourists who also visit the Bale Mountains National Park.

Recently, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) registered Bale Mountains National Park as a world heritage.

“The inscription of the Bale Mountains National Park will definitely increase visibility, attract more tourists, and provide funding opportunities for conservation efforts,” said the commissioner, noting that the park is a natural gift not only to Ethiopia but also to the world, and therefore should be protected by all people.

Recognizing the importance of the Chinese market to Ethiopia’s tourism development and ever-strengthening diplomatic and business relations between the two sides, the commission is partnering with Chinese firms for cultural cooperation and language development, with a focus on producing tour guides who will communicate in the Chinese language.

According to the commissioner, the partnership includes the promotion of tourism attractions in the region through digital platforms and the exchange of experiences through a training package to be offered by Chinese experts to local professionals.

The commission is now holding the third edition of the Oromia Tourism Week on Sept. 24-26 with different activities, including a panel discussion, exhibitions, and the Miss Oromia Pageant.

The Oromia Tourism Week will serve as a platform to promote nature-based attractions Oromia Region can offer along with historical sites in the northern part of the country, said Duga, adding that the region is home to 70 percent of the country’s wildlife and scenic lakes, as well as the origin of organic coffee.

“The event will discuss the importance of tourism within the framework of green investment in Ethiopia and bring together all stakeholders, including officials from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and other neighboring countries, to further integrate tourism development along the East African region,” Duga said.