Jan 7 , 2023

The Ministry of Tourism and the Ethiopian Space Science and Geospatial institute, teaming up with the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, introduced a tourist smart card to the tourism market last week. A team of software engineers at the Ethiopian Space Science and Geospatial Institute developed the App, financed by the Ethiopian government.

A tourist smart card is a digital card that can provide a discounted price through a chip, QR code, or a mobile application.

The smart card started operation following the directive enacted by the central bank for International Payment Instruments. Sileshi Girma, state minister for the Ministry of Tourism, said that the tourist smart cards would be available at the Bole International Airport in the coming weeks. The Ministry also announced a mobile application, a holiday saving account. the cost of the card has not been decided yet, according to the State Minister. Sileshi noted that they have packages to five tourist destinations, including hotels and other tourism-related services. Using the smart tourist card gives visitors a seven percent discount on every service sector.

The Ministry is working to develop tourist destination sites in the country. Sileshi said that his office is working towards revealing new destinations they have developed to visitors. The Choke, the third highest mountain in Ethiopia, which is located 300 km northwest of the capital, has been selected as one of the best tourism villages by the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

The Ministry plans on infrastructure development in tourist destinations, a community refreshment centre at Sinqile Animal Park, washroom facilities at the Lalibela, and tourist information desks at Bole International Airport and regional Airports.

The cards for startup purposes are designed on a platform to transact to 50,000 dollars, and later on, CBE plans to develop prepaid options. Sileshi believes that this would ease the risk and burden of carrying hard cash while boosting the economy through foreign currency generation. The holiday savings accounts are designed for the diaspora and local tourists to promote major tourist destinations.

"Local visitors are welcome and highly encouraged to use this platform", said the State Minister.

In 2020, around 2.28 billion dollars was generated from the tourism sector, and nearly two billion dollars was generated last year.

Satellite Operations Director at the Institute, Melaku Muka, said that it took one year to develop the Visit Ethiopia App available on both the App and Play stores.

"Thousands have already downloaded the App," said Melaku. It provides information about tourism while giving users data administrator privileges on a dashboard for the Ministry to collect data on which areas are most visited.

"It is presented with nine languages, five of which are local languages," said Melaku. The App consists of a navigation to search for areas and places and serves as a social media platform where people can post and share videos and photos. Weather forecasting and place recommendations are also included.

Abdisa Yilma, CEO of the Institute, said that the App would help the tourism sector flourish, currently struggling with the aftermath of the pandemic and security issues.

He said that the Institution is working on digitalising the service-providing sectors.

PUBLISHED ON Jan 07,2023 [ VOL 23 , NO 1184]

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