Every year on September 27, tourism day is observed internationally. This year’s International Tourism Day will be celebrated under the theme “Tourism for All: Promoting Universal Accessibility”. The theme implies that tourism can be enjoyed equally by everybody, regardless of race, age, gender, religious, cultural differences, or one’s physical and mental condition.
The right of accessibility to tourism also implies ensuring that humans have access to affordable services and that tourism, as an industry, is not restricted to the affluent. Affordability and accessibility involve ensuring that tourism sites have the proper transportation system, including for low-income populations, accommodation that everyone can afford, information systems that may be understood and made use of by many, and above all, good hospitality.
The tourism industry, if properly managed, has dual importance. Tourists come to specific countries to enjoy and satisfy their emotional needs. Tourists frequently have a variety of different interests: some want to enjoy the good climate that they often cannot find in their own countries, while others seek to enjoy historical places, stunning landscapes, ancient monasteries, art deco buildings, or other rare sites. The preferences are many and vary from person to person. This is one dimension of tourism – in terms of the interests of tourists.
Secondly, tourism is referred to as a smokeless industry. There are many countries in the world that infuse large sums of hard currency into their economy. The modernization of tourism service institutions, including building new and modern hotels, infrastructure such as roads, and communication facilities, have a great potential impact on the country’s economic development. The tourism industry also creates employment opportunity for citizens.
Accessible tourism environment and services will contribute to improving the quality of the tourism product, thus significantly adding to the economic development of a given country and improving the livelihood of its people.
Importantly, however, accessibility to tourism attraction sites alone is not enough to attract tourists. Access to information is one of the very important concepts to develop the industry. Tourists do not simply get up from their beds and come to visit. They require the basic information about the amenities on offer, the peace and tranquility of the destination, the important sites that they “should not miss,” and the rich history and demography of the local people. In a sense, information is power, and here it serves as a great tool of attraction.
Eritrea is endowed with a plethora of tourist attraction sites that can attract tourists with varied interests. For those who enjoy the sand, swimming, diving, and the diverse natural marine environment, Eritrea’s long coastline (over 1000 km) on the Red Sea cannot be beat. For landscape lovers, there are the awe-inspiring Eastern, Western, and Southern escarpments, as well the plains of the Gash Barka and Southern regions. Meanwhile, the art deco, modernist and futurist buildings of Asmara, and the Turkish-style buildings in Massawa and Keren are there for those eager to enjoy and admire. The historical sites of Metera, Kohaito, Keskese, Adulis and the other archeological sites are another area to pique tourists’ interest. Additionally, the ancient monasteries of Debre Bizen, Ham, Tsaeda Emba, Aba-Metae, and the ancient Mosque of Sahaba (and many others) are full of rich history, sure to please intellectuals and the general tourist.
As has been said time and again, Eritrea is renowned throughout the region for its stability and peace. Many foreigners who visit the country have testified the truth of the statement. Any individual, irrespective of age or gender, can walk the streets major cities – at any time of day or night – with little fear. In fact, no one, as far as we know, has reported violence against him/herself simply because he/she is an outsider or tourist. Peace and stability are, therefore, one of the main elements for the growth of tourism industry.
Accessibility to tourism sites is also one area of engagement the Government and people of Eritrea are striving to develop. Every village in Eritrea is interconnected with roads. While the roads serve as vital transport routes for local people, buses, and businesses, they also represent a useful benefit for the tourism sector.
Regarding accommodation, communication and other services, a considerable amount has been accomplished since independence. As everyone knows, the first years of independence saw the Government and people of Eritrea focused on reconstruction, rehabilitation, and on reviving the war torn infrastructure and economy. In the past few years, however, substantial investment has been extended to build new hotels, large and small dams, modern agro-industries, modern transportation services, and efficient communication systems.
An important remaining task remains promoting the tourist attraction sites, so that people with different preferences will have the interest and ability to come and visit. Promotion activities are not to be left only to the Ministry of Tourism and the Eritrean Tourism Services Association; instead, they are the responsibility of the people, both at home and abroad.
Tourist attraction sites can be found in abundance across Eritrea, in both rural and urban areas. With continued investment and proper promotion, the sector can continue to grow and help play a positive, tangible role in the socio-economic development of the country.
Eritrean Tourism Service Association
27 September 2016