Jan 7 , 2022

A federal bureau tasked with organising conventions is determined to bring a significant tourism and technology conference to Addis Abeba as it participated in its first bid since its inception last year.

The Ethiopian Convention Bureau (ECB) has made an offer to host the 30th edition of the annual ENTER conference scheduled for late January next year. Organised by the International Federation for Information Technologies and Travel & Tourism (IFITT), a non-profit organisation, 200 delegates will assemble for three days. The registration fee will be 500 euros, revenues to be shared with the Federation.

The Bureau's officials declined to disclose the bid amount.

The Bureau is mandated to bid for international events and host them independently. Aided by consultants hired by the World Bank's fund, it has developed a five-year strategic plan with a budget of 3.4 million dollars.

If it wins the bid, it will select an event organiser, disclosed Wondemagegne Girma, director of tourism sales and bidding at the Bureau.

“The event organiser will be responsible for arranging and facilitating accommodation and venues,” said Wondemagegne.

This is the first bid the Bureau has participated in since its formation in 2020. Its officials say it is necessary to make Addis Abeba the top event destination in Africa in a decade.

Consolidating a task previously performed by several government institutions into one entity has many advantages, according to Yoadan Tilahun, managing director of Flawless Events, an event organiser for 14 years. A member of the International Conventions & Conferences Association, Flawless has organised international exhibitions and conferences in 14 African countries, including Ethiopia.

“The existence of a dedicated entity allows the country to follow up and compete in bids on a much larger scale,” she said.

But some challenges deter the country from attracting events, according to Yoadan.

“Although we've managed to win contracts for organising international events in the past, we faced many problems because venues are often already reserved," she said.

Africa accounts for three percent of the global event industry, where South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Kenya and Rwanda are the top destinations. Kigali hosted 40 international exhibitions, conferences and events two years ago, while Addis Ababa hosted 15. In 2021, Addis Abeba hosted 13 events.

There are only a handful of conference facilities and trade show centres in Addis Abeba, such as the African Union, the UNECA, Millennium Hall and the Addis Ababa Exhibition Centre. These venues are available on a first-come-first-served basis.

Kumneger Teketel, a hospitality expert who says he introduced the concept to the authorities, observes international events have the potential to compensate for losses from the decline of the tourism industry over the past couple of years. The COVID-19 pandemic, political instability, and conflicts in the country's north have had a devastating effect on tourism, slashing income by two-thirds. The industry contributes an estimated five percent to Ethiopia's GDP, and supports two million people directly or indirectly.

Close to 812,000 tourists were reported by the authorities to have visited Ethiopia in 2019, generating a reported 3.55 billion dollars. In the following years, arrivals stood at 266,000.

According to official figures, during the first nine months of last year, 331,000 tourists visited Ethiopia, generating a little more than 1.5 billion dollars.

Conference accounts for up to 45pc of the country's total income from tourism.

“It`s the future,” said Kumneger.

Wondemagegne and his colleagues at the Bureau agree.

”We plan to participate in 18 bids for major conferences and exhibitions this year," he said.

PUBLISHED ON Jan 07,2022 [ VOL 22 , NO 1132]

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