Tourism:The best way to connect Ethiopia and Kenya

Henry George Okoch 

It goes without saying that Ethiopia’s tourism industry has for long lagged behind other African nations, least its neighbour whose share from the sector is probably one of the highest, if not the highest, from the continent: Kenya.

But as of late there came an opportunity where the two nations can make tourism matter most to both, for both. In an exclusive interview with this magazine Muriithi Ndegwa, Managing Director of Kenya Tourism Board, said his office was more than ready to explore the endless opportunities that exist for the two countries to make tourism a sector that benefits them both than any other.  “At least one billion travellers across the world look at East Africa and IGAD region as visiting destination”.

Complimenting, not competing

The idea of Ethiopia and Kenya coming together and making tourism the most desirable investment is quite appealing. What Kenya has, Ethiopia lacks and vice versa. Kenya is blessed with its breathtakingly beautiful coastal beach, sophisticated Safari and a mature tourism service industry.  Ethiopia has the mountains, ancient archaeologies, churches and obelisks and a tourism service industry that is nowhere close to that of Kenya’s

Mr. Muriithi was right when he said, “partnership is meant to strengthen and compliment the respective country’s tourism sectors as opposed to competing.”

Kenya’s Tourism Board, which brought a team of its senior staff led by Mr. Muriithi to Ethiopia to discuss with relevant authorities and the private sector, wants to begin by giving training on service delivery to Ethiopian tour and travel operators. Rightly, Ethiopia’s tourism service delivery is one that needs a serious surgery.

The ease of connectivity that exists between the two countries is the envy of other IGAD member states. No other national carrier flies as frequently on a daily base as Ethiopian Airlines to Nairobi and the coastal city Mombasa, and its Kenyan counterpart Kenyan Airlines to Addis Abeba Bole International Airport. “We have two national carriers that is Kenya airways and Ethiopian airlines which serve market very well,” says Mr. Muriithi, “the two national foot prints reach almost every single continent in the world, therefore with two combined forces in terms of bringing people into the region.”

Mr. Muriithi also believes that boosting the road infrastructure, such as constructing a one stop border point, will ease the flow of tourists from travelling between Ethiopia and Kenya. That requires both countries to partner on creating the same immigration facilities, laws and regulations and operate from the “same building.”  Hence, the need for his institution to step up work in bringing all stakeholders together and planning the best ways ahead.

Soon, tourists with a taste for an African beach and safari who travel half way through the world can add another adventure into their to-do list: mountain hiking, a visit to the lowest point on earth or a face-to-face with the world’s oldest skeleton of a female Australopithecus afarensis, otherwise known as Dinkinesh/“Lucy”. Yes! It is all possible.

Cover Photo: Muriithi Ndegwa

Photo: Addis Standard

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