Media has a pervasive power for good or bad. Ethiopia suffers a lot from negative media presentations, even though the country hosts many glamorous conferences. And also its tangible and intangible tourist attractions can serve as a tool to change the images of the country in the international community. The country has more than Twelve UNESCO registered world heritages and more natural and cultural endowments, yet it benefits less from them. Our job is to try and assess the tourism potential of the country and its actual gain from the sector. We also focus on the role of the media has to play in the process of promoting the Ethiopian heritage. To put this into effect, mixed methodology have been used and the result showed that, there exists a great gap between the potential that the country has and its benefit from it. The bridge is widened by lack of promotion through the different media outlets. The qualitative methodology was helpful to analyse contents related to the new media outlets while quantitative one addresses the views of one hundred tourists who have the experience visiting the country. Hence the result revealed that the country has not benefited from its tourism potential.
The country is gifted with exclusive amalgamation of natural and cultural heritages, impressive scenery, suitable climate, rich flora and fauna and acknowledged archaeological sites. It has more than eight hundred species of birds, of which, twenty three are endemic to the country. The mountains, lakes and rivers of the country have many fascinating features. The fourth highest pick of Africa’s mountain, Ras Dashen is located in Ethiopia. The Blue Nile (the world’s longest river), Awash, Genale, the Wabishebele, Omo, Tekeze, and Baro rivers are among a few and most useful rivers for the country’s socio economic development. In addition to this, Ethiopia has a rich history which astonishingly extends in the pre- historic period. With twelve UNESCO registered world heritages, the country is the home of more than eighteen nations and nationalities. When we assess the press role in promoting the above potential of the country, it was poor. The worst is that, both government and private newspapers, for example, do not have common columns on tourism and travel writing. Though ministry of culture and tourism claimed that enhancing internal tourism hardly reach domestic tourists by 67 programs through television, radio and newspapers, this is not fair enough to a country like ours whose international image is damaged. Besides this, the quality of programs, area and time coverage, target audience and media selection, and appropriate use of the medium of communication (language) remains argumentative. Tourism has become large global industry, expanding rapidly not only in developed but also in developing countries. 11% of the world’s GNP share was by the tourism sector and related products (tourism and general travel). Its share on the global economy has been increasing significantly, and it is faster than global output as per United Nation world tourism organisation report (2019).
However, complaints have been coming from tourist destination countries on supportive measures to develop tourism potential areas. Activities in most of the tourist destinations are less than the expected ones. In line with using already existing sites, developing nations like ours by considering potential tourism attractions promotion and development activities should be done simultaneously to increase the benefits of the sector at large. One of the main challenges for tourism to position itself as a key economic sector in developing countries is using only the existing tourism resource. There is a necessity for government policies and donor-financed tourism development programs that attempt to develop brand new potential sites in the tourism industry. Contrary to this idea, developing nations without expecting donation can achieve success, if different actors of tourism jointly design least cost promotion and development strategies facilitated by the media.
For many years, Ethiopia has attracted the receptive travellers before the appearance of the known Ethiopian tourist sites, that is, Lalibela, Axum, and Lucy. Visitors also celebrated its attractions, yet the country has not benefited from its potential. Ethiopia’s territory includes Twelve UNESCO registered World Heritage Sites, four
important national parks, a source of the world’s longest river, and sites admired among adherents of Christianity, Islam and Judaism and diverse African traditional societies. Ethiopia has very distinct cultural and historic products based on ancient Axumite civilisations and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church; the walled Old City of Harar with its seven gates considered.
Ethiopia’s predominant image in international media remains one of starvation, conflict and barren landscapes and many people in the West continue to see Ethiopia as a charity case. Therefore, to change distorted images in the international media, the country should use its enormous tourism potential by designing well promotion and marketing strategy. It is obvious that economic development has a pervasive role in image formation; and accelerating the perceptions of the international communities is equally important especially for countries like Ethiopia, whose low economic development shadows glamorous historical, cultural and natural attractions until recently.
Ethiopia is a potential market source of revenue for local and foreign tourism industry products and services. When we talk about development what comes into our minds are agricultural, industries, mining, etc. But nowadays, tourism-heritage (natural or cultural) has made a huge contribution to development. It is obvious that Ethiopia handles numerous heritages, yet its commitment to use its tourism endowment is very limited. Its shortcomings to develop, maintain and promote our potential are obvious. Such obstacles hinder the country from not harvesting its fruits.
The contribution of tourism for one’s country, multidimensional development and image building have been repeatedly discussed. Especially, countries like Ethiopia are culturally diverse, have ancient heritages, fascinating natural attractions, and are endowed with a rich history. Tourism has irrepressible role not only for economic development, but also to build up distorted images for centuries. To bring this, it needs systematic, strategic and cooperative approach of all.
How can it be achieved? There is no good name or development of thinking only. To accomplish the missions and wishes all citizens of the country have to work hard and fight obstacles proactively.
Above all, the government has a huge responsibility on creating workable atmosphere, promoting the country’s tourism development by formulating policies, strategies and strategic plans, and enhancing the participation of stakeholders.
In accordance with this, as seen in the analysis, culture and tourism ministry issued a policy in 2009 but there is no officially known marketing and promotion strategy; even the policy itself had limitations: in identifying main actors of tourism resulted in problem to give responsibilities precisely, limited vision in time and estimated work to be done and less focus for other sectors though it ties with many sectors in one or another way.
Media has the insidious power in promoting, informing, entertaining as well as educating the audience. Presenting documentaries about the national geography of Ethiopia may have two or more functions. It entertains at the same time promotes the country’s tourism potential. Media (especially the new media) nowadays has become the main source of information worldwide. So based on audience research, providing adequate information through media (more emphasis to the internet) with different pictures, videos and texts is vital.
The ministry of culture and tourism has failed to use media as a tool for promoting tourism to the rest of the world. As respondents from culture and tourism indicated they tried to promote Ethiopia in world trade and fairness. This promotion strategy is much expensive and less effective. This is because of the low expressive ability of promotion and marketing experts, cultural, historical heritages and attractions in different languages throughout the exhibition, less presence of target tourists and limited span of promotion time and the like. Rather with the convergence of media the ministry ought to plan strategic use of the internet to reach people at least cost.
Lastly, there’s a culture of not knowing how to take photos among Ethiopians in general. Yes, the tourism sector should embark on the exercise of teaching people how to take photos, and please not with phones. Invest in proper cameras, as they don’t cost very much! Also, if you don’t passionately love Ethiopia, then how can you successfully promote it??