In 2019, an article written by Anne Stellberger reported on the booming Ethiopian tourism and hospitality sector, and the way that PROJECT-E contributes to it by “providing a well-educated and equipped work force” for any one of the PEHI’s 15 partner hotels in Addis Ababa (https://project-e.eu/booming-tourist-sector-addis/). In 2019, the fact that a record 812,000 tourists visited the country, bringing a revenue of 3.55 bn USD (4.2 percent of the gross national product), bode well for both the PEHI’s students’ job opportunities and the country’s socio-economic development.
However, 2020 was a terrible year for the Ethiopian economy. International tensions with its neighbouring countries (namely Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea); the biggest locust invasion in decades; widespread socio-political unrest following the murder of prominent singer-songwriter and activist Hachalu Hundessa; the recent conflict and resulting humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region; and, of course, the advent of COVID-19 and its related government restrictions have caused a “large, unprecedented shock to the country’s economy”. Indeed, the IMF expects Ethiopia’s GDP growth to be null in 2021.
Much like in the rest of the world, national and international travel restrictions have caused Ethiopia’s tourism sector to be hit the hardest: the effects are even more pronounced in Addis Ababa, where thousands of workers suddenly found themselves unemployed due to the closure of around 88% of hotels, tour operators, airlines, and other tourist related businesses. Things do not appear to be improving for the hospitality sector, since a recent “alarming” increase in COVID-19 infections has led the Ethiopian government to introduce even stricter travel measures.
The effects of the pandemic and government restrictions have also been felt at the PEHI, where PROJECT-E staff and students were no longer able to carry out the Hotel Operation Level 2 cooperative trainings, and the internship program with partner hotels in Addis Ababa had to be discontinued.
While 2020-2021 have been disastrous years, experts maintain Ethiopia’s hospitality sector will be crucial to the nation’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery. Reports remain positive, and forecast an increase in international travel to Ethiopia over the next few years, both for tourism and business reasons, with the capital expected to become home to a rising number of foreign corporate, NGO and diplomatic staff. This bodes well for the hospitality sector, hotel operations, PEHI students, and for the country as a whole.