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Unrest in Ethiopia hits tourism
Published in Guardian on 2016-11-06T12:30:16+00:00
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Negative Comments

I was there in Addis Ababa from 15 to 31 October and I noticed little difference from my 3 visits last year apart from the internet being blocked away from the larger hotels. Prior to the state of emergency being declared on 9th October there was a justifiable fear of trouble within Addis after the shocking events in Bishoftu. I'm going again next month to Addis for Western & Ethiopian Christmas and possibly flying up to Mekele in Tigray avoiding Amhara & specific areas of Oromio.

It's a beautiful country with lots to see even close to Addis. Though if you suffer from altitude sickness Addis might not be the best area to go to. The biggest danger was on the ’roads’ but I hear the Chinese have improved a lot of them now. I feel really privileged to have visited and I hope the situation improves soon.

Positive Comments

Again bad governance on African leaders worsening the already fragile economies of their countries. Why is it so hard to implement democracies in that part of the world and rule of law.

Folks,Ethiopia is bracing for more unrest. The government will never give up power and that is the demand of the people. No government can continue to rule for long when most of the population is saying no in unison. Bullets will intimidate for a while but people are organizing for insurrection. I'd say save your money and stay safe. Why would you want to prop up an oppressive regime anyway by supporting tyranny using your pounds and dollars? It is unethical. It is like crossing a picket line.

This is not to absolve African governments of responsibility. Ethiopia was recently voted 'The Most Beautiful country on Earth'. One would've expected the launch of a huge advertising campaign by the Ethiopian govt and institutions to take advantage of the free publicity. The incompetence is almost criminal

"For a tour operator it has been hard to find reliable info.” Surely that is one of the most important jobs of a tour operator. If the information isn't available from reliable sources, the company should send someone there to find out before risking the lives of their clients!

Bryan Pready:
FCO travel advice is big problem not just for Ethiopia but for many other countries in Africa. The main problem is that if the FCO says somewhere is unsafe then you travel insurance becomes invalid.

Controversy Analysis

Unrest in Ethiopia hits tourism
Published in Guardian on 2016-11-06T12:30:16+00:00

With nine Unesco world heritage sites and an archeological history that goes back to the first humans, Ethiopias ancient treasures along with its national parks and mountain ranges have been drawing a growing number of tourists, after years of being more strongly associated by the west with famine.

But its flourishing and vital tourist industry faces collapse this month, after violent anti-government protests across the country led the Ethiopian government to declare a six-month state of emergency. The US and UK are both warning citizens against all but essential travel there.

Tour operators Saga, Cox & Kings and Kuoni are among those cancelling trips to the country, citing Foreign Office (FCO) advice to avoid the Amhara and Oromia regions, which have seen growing unrest, mass arrests and police killings of protesters.

The Simien mountains in Amhara, one of the regions the FCO is advising tourists avoid. Photograph: Alamy

The state of emergency and FCO travel advisory have taken a heavy toll on bookings for the next six months, said Nigel Nicoll of the African Travel and Tourism Association (Atta), who added that Ethiopia had been one of Africas fastest growing destinations.

In 2015, the European Council on Tourism and Trade named Ethiopia the worlds best tourist destination, and last week Lonely Planet ranked the country among the best to visit in 2017. This year, Ethiopia was set to surpass a million tourists for the first time (fewer than 200,000 people visited in 2004).

But Ethiopias main tourist sites are well away from the regions seeing the worst disruption, with local operators stressing that the risk to tourists is low.

None of the tourist sites in Addis has been affected: our tours there are running normally, said Eliza Richman of Go Addis Tours. Our bookings for October were roughly the same as last year, but people are mostly booking tours at the last minute. We have very few advance bookings for November.

The Sunken rock-hewn church of Bet Giyorgis at Lalibela, one of the countrys biggest tourist attractions, is in northern Ethiopia away from most of the trouble. Photograph: Gavin Hellier/Alamy

Andinet Feleke, who runs Jacaranda Tours and is a board member of the Ethiopian Tour Operators Association, added: Tourism has never stopped and significant number of visitors are having trips in all tourist destinations. We had a group on the dates when protests had escalated and none of them encountered a problem. I hope foreign governments will have a balanced approach and align their responsibility to protect their citizens with the impact their decision will have on the livelihood of millions here.

While major tour operators will always defer to Foreign Office warnings, more intrepid travellers are not deterred, though the messages, even from within Ethiopia, are mixed.

The lack of consistency is concerning, said Shanny Hill of TDA Global Cycling, a Canadian company that has run tours including Ethiopia for 14 years and is plans to go ahead with a trip in February. An expat acquaintance in Addis makes it seem dire (road closures, troops, limitations on travel all unconfirmed), but an Ethiopian who we trust tells us everything is now fine. For a tour operator it has been hard to find reliable info.

The hope is that the state of emergency will be short-lived, before long-term damage is done. As long as the FCOs advice remains in place, Atta strongly advises against travel to the areas concerned, says Nicoll. If tourists were involved in an incident, their travel insurance may well be invalid. But I am confident that as soon as peace is restored throughout the tourist regions, and the FCO lifts its travel advisory, tourism numbers will revive very quickly.