Addis Ababa: July 15, 2015 – It’s time to brush up on your Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia, because the African nation has been named as the World’s Best Tourism Destination for 2015.
It was given the award by the the European Council on Tourism and Trade, who praised its outstanding natural beauty, dramatic landscapes and ancient culture.
Thirty-one countries were considered for the illustrious award this year, with Ethiopia coming top of the pile.
Visitors walk past Bete Giyorgis, also called St George’s Church, at the Lalibela holy site that was highlighted as being a key tourist spot
The lava lake of the small crater In Erta Ale Volcano is sure to be something people will remember seeing forever
Ethiopia has nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, which were heralded by the commission.
Tourism was defined as a tool for poverty eradication, for local community development and for economic independence is a successful strategy.
Ethiopia’s goal is to boost tourist revenues to $3 billion this year – in 2013 revenues from tourism were at $2 billion.
And, if it achieves that, it will start challenging the dominance of regional rivals on Africa’s eastern seaboard, such as Kenya and Tanzania.
But instead of beach holidays and safaris, land-locked Ethiopia is promoting its imperial past – the below ground 13th century churches of Lalibela, hewn from solid rock, and the hill castles of Gondar – as well as its mountainous and majestic topography.
Visitor numbers have risen 12 percent a year in the past decade to reach 600,000 in 2014. The target at the end of this year is one million.
In the capital of Addis Ababa, the transformation from the starvation years and the ‘Red Terror’ purges of the 1970s and 1980s is plain to see. Construction is booming and a metro opens next year, cutting through the sprawling city — the only such network in sub-Saharan Africa.
The commission praised the the excellent preservation of humanity landmarks such as: ruins of the city of Aksum- the heart of ancient Ethiopia, Fasil Ghebbi- the residence of the Ethiopian emperors during the 16th and 17th century, Harar Jugol- 82 mosques, 102 shrines, and unique interior design in the townhouses and Lalibela – holy site encompassing 11 medieval stone carved churches from the 13th century.