Jun 20 , 2020

Tourism Ethiopia has written a protocol to prevent the spread of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) at tourism sites and protect tourists and tour operators from the virus.

The government tour promoter has been working on the protocol for the past three weeks via a task force composed of professionals from the Ministry of Culture & Tourism, tour operators' associations and regional states' culture and tourism bureaus.

The protocol aims at protecting tourists, tour guides and the community at the destinations from the transmission of COVID-19, according to Seleshi Girma, CEO of Tourism Ethiopia, which is preparing to consult on the protocol with religious institutions and on the destination sites with the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority.

The protocol limits the number of tourists that can visit a certain site at one time and requires physical distancing between visitors and tour guides. It requires the visitors, tourist destinations and hotel associations to comply with the World Tourism Organisation's health and hygiene safety requirements that have been set in place to combat the spread of the virus.

The sites should have thermometers to test the temperature of the visitors before they get to the site. The tourists should also disinfect their materials at every tourist destination before they enter, according to the draft protocol.

The destinations should also cut their serving capacity, and the destinations are also advised to increase the number of windows they use to give service to visitors to avoid crowds. They are also encouraged to implement E-payment systems enabling tourists to pay and finalise tripes online before reaching the destination.

The protocol will help the sector to not lose experienced workers and to keep the sector on track, according to Andinet Feleke, president of the Ethiopian Tour Operators Association, which has 300 tour operators as members that account for a total of 3,000 employees.

Tour guides are also expected to regularly disinfect the vehicles that they use to transport tourists before travel and after travel. They should also regularly check the health status of the visitors throughout their trips.

Tourism is one of the industries that has been most harmed by the global outbreak of the virus. The industry has suffered since the lockdown in many countries across the world and flight suspensions of most of the international airline companies.

Ethiopia could lose up to one billion dollars due to the situation, according to Endegena Desalegn, acting communications director at the Ministry of Culture & Tourism.

During the first nine months of the current fiscal year, a total of 541,145 tourists arrived in the country and generated just under 2.1 billion dollars. In the last fiscal year, 811,604 tourists arrived in Ethiopia, generating 3.2 billion dollars in revenue.

The protocol is part of the recovery strategy that has been drafted by the Ministry of Culture & Tourism and Tourism Ethiopia to help the industry bounce back. The strategy incorporates proactive communication and media engagement; cooperative image building and marketing; stimulation of the struggling industry; service excellence and product diversification, implementation arrangements, monitoring and evaluation of performance.

Henok Seyoum, a tourism journalist, appreciates the government taking action before the industry is hit hard and falls to an unrecoverable level.

"The measures will let the operators and the professionals stay in business until the pandemic is over," he said.

Henok adds that only the federal offices are taking action, while the regional culture and tourism bureaus remain dormant.

“The regional offices and administrations of tourist destination sites need to cooperate and work closely with the federal offices," Henok said.

PUBLISHED ON Jun 20,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1051]

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