International Tourism Day will be celebrated on the 27th of September under the theme “Millions of Tourists: Millions of Opportunities.” The theme indicates that as more tourists visit a given country, a variety of opportunities arises for the people of the host country.
Tourism is a labor intensive industry, incorporating small businesses and individuals to large corporations. Since tourism involves direct cash spending by visitors, it can have a quick, direct impact on the local population and economy, helping to improve development and standards of living.
The smokeless industry offers a variety of tangible benefits. These include economic benefits, since the industry provides direct job opportunities (e.g. restaurants, tour guides, and hotels) and indirect employment (e.g. food production, transport services, and entertainment venues).
The direct expenditure tourists make also generates income for the local community, thus potentially alleviating poverty. Tourists travel the globe, often prepared both financially and mentally to visit areas of interest. During their period of travel, tourists often spend a substantial amount of money that can positively impact communities and states.
Additionally, tourism may also bring about a real sense of pride and identity to the host community. Through tourism, the community can display its way of life, culture, traditions, and history. In this regard, tourism has a significant role to play in encouraging local communities to preserve traditions and cultures to attract more tourism.
Tourists need to have full information about the country they are expected to visit, and it is very important that they know about the history, culture and places of interest they are supposed to come and enjoy.
There are different types of tourism, including cultural tourism in which people come to experience the history, folklore, and culture of a people; ecotourism, where people travel to enjoy the landscape and the natural beauty of a country; religious tourism, involving visiting a place of spiritual significance; and business tourism, which sees people travel to complete business transactions or attend business meetings. Each type of tourism involves people who are eager to travel to host countries with different intentions. The historical heritage, festivals, religious shrines and religious festivities, big agro-industries, and natural seaside beaches are among the places of interest tourists often like to visit and experience.
In order to attract the different types of tourists, host communities should ensure that tourists are well informed. First and foremost, they should be confident that they will find the things they need during their stay. This could be accomplished through advertisements appearing on different media outlets. Moreover, key infrastructure developments, such as airports, roads, communication and transport services, are very important features that tourists generally expect.
In order to achieve the high standard experience that visitors expect, and also to contribute to the growth of the industry, it is necessary to consider several things. One should understand visitors’ needs and expectations. As well, hospitality, respect, and honesty are often high on the list of what tourists admire. The availability of resources and daily needs (e.g. clean water, comfortable hotels, and restaurants) are also important, and they provide tourists with satisfaction while also possibly motivating them to return or encouraging others to visit. Raising levels of professionalism and improving visitor satisfaction should be key objectives of host countries and communities.
In terms of Eritrea, the country is endowed with many types of tourist attractions. Inter alia, these include the historical and cultural sites of Kohaito and Metera, the rich archeological site at Adulis, the ancient monasteries of Debrebizen, Tsaeda Emba, Debresina, Ham, and Aba-Metae, and the ancient Sahaba Mosque (thought to be the first mosque in Africa). Furthermore, the stunning landscape of the eastern escarpment and the area of Igla Demhina represent breathtaking tourist attractions.
Since the introduction of Christianity and Islam to Eritrea, the country has witnessed the construction of many monasteries and mosques. These represent both places of worship and sources of rich heritage. When the monasteries and shrines celebrate various religious days, thousands of people from all walks of life come to pay homage. With proper promotion, the religious festivities could even attract foreign tourists and contribute to the development of the country’s tourism industry (e.g. through income creation for many individuals or surrounding communities).
The ancient monasteries and mosques also have their own history to tell. If we consider the Sahaba mosque, history tells us that the first followers on the Arabian Peninsula were persecuted, and as a result they sought refuge on the other side of the Red Sea (present day Eritrea). Upon their arrival, they were accorded with a warm welcome. During their stay, they built a place of worship – Sahaba, a mosque which became the first of its kind in Africa. The mosque was built in 1400 A.D., and it represents a significant tourist attraction. The latter can also be said about other monasteries that were built by monks coming from the Middle East to spread Christianity in the region.
Beyond religious attractions, art deco buildings in the country’s urban areas are also tourist attractions. Architecture in Massawa, built during the country’s period under the Ottoman Empire, and Italian colonial-era art deco buildings in Asmara and Keren are historic sites of ingenuity, rich culture, and diversity.
The country’s Red Sea coastline, over 1000 kilometers long and hosting awe-inspiring natural beaches, is one of the wonders in Eritrea. One can enjoy a sun bath, or dive and swim in clear, clean waters. The Red Sea is also very rich in variety of fish and colorful, unblemished coral reefs and very attractive for adventure tourists.
Most importantly, the peace and tranquility prevailing in Eritrea, and the warm hospitality of the people are the important features that may draw tourists to the country. Tourists like to visit their place of interest unhindered, with no time limitations, and with the knowledge that their stay will be enjoyable, fun, memorable, and peaceful. For that, Eritrea is just the right place.
In order for the theme of this year’s International Tourism Day (i.e. “One Million of Tourists: One million of Opportunities”) to materialize, every citizen is expected to contribute his or her share. That includes keeping the environment clean, ensuring the maintenance and safety of historical sites and ancient places of worship, and being willing to share the special features of home with others.
By: Eritrean Tourism Services Association