One among the few

Tourist Numbers in Africa

Once again I have turned to Ivan Colic’s cool blog Afrographique for  digestible, colourful and creative interpretations of relevant graphs and statistics on different African content. This time I wanted to serve you some insights on the number of tourists in Africa, and reflect on the missing pin on this map, in Ethiopia.

I guess it is not so surprising that Egypt and South Africa are the two first runners up, and probably not that Morocco and Tunisia are number three and four. More interesting is it that Ethiopia is not even listed. Interesting, but not surprising. Many people (tourists!) are yet to discover the wonders that this country possess, as they simply have no idea what Ethiopia is all about. Or in other words, if there are more to it than the images and stories that the news media communicate. There are too many general prejudices and stereotypical ideas of this country that prevent people to look deeper into its peoples, cultures and travelling-possibilities. For if they did, I am quite sure that Ethiopia would be ranked on this map!

Even though the tourism-industry is growing in Ethiopia, the number of tourists here are limited. There are big sights though, that attract almost every single tourist going here, such as the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and probably also the skeletons of the first ‘human being’ in the world, Ethiopian Lucy who was found in the Afar region. More rock-hewn churches are found in the Tigray highlands, where nature and culture are perfectly combined, something you find few places in the world. Furthermore the Ethiopian Highlands and Lake Tana are the source of the Blue Nile, and the impressive Blue Nile falls. Your will never get tired of the mountains and landscapes of the highlands, as they are completely unspoiled, endless and fascinating.

I could go on and on, really. But of course this is not an advertisement for the Ethiopian tourism industry, but merely a little personal reflection on the biased perceptions of the country, and how in some ways tourism actually could help balance it a bit. Tourists would return to their country and tell different stories than the media, and hopefully help change the minds of people close them. And perhaps this mouth-to-mouth branding would make more people visit the country, and change the perceptions of even more people. For if more people knew, more people would have a different idea of the country. But it is a slow movement for sure, but slowly happening.

I guess looking at a map like this will also attract some people out of simple curiosity, and the desire to discover untouched lands. Because many parts of Ethiopia are in many ways untouched lands, where one doesn’t walk in the footsteps of other tourists, but can have whole mountains all to one self. And besides from the incredible nature, culture and people here, that is probably one of the biggest assets of being a tourist in Ethiopia – you are one among the few, not the many!


NB! For comparison 48.7 million people visited New York in 2010, and about 42 million people visit Paris annually.


  1. Name * wrote:

    yes so surely the OBVIOUS thing that is missing from your article is how many tourists in Ethiopia?

    • KarenO wrote:

      Yes, you are right. I haven’t been able to find official numbers on any government websites. However, I stumbled across the number 412.341 for 2009. But this would mean that there was a drop in tourism, since Ethiopia doesn’t figure on the 2011 map, and Angola with only 366.000 visitors does. The figure merely serves to illustrate my point that perceptions and media-images of Ethiopia are highly unbalanced, and that this has a big say in the number of tourists coming to the country. But of course the number of tourists would have prooved to serve the point as well.

  2. Name * wrote:

    Approximately 20,000 visited Ethiopia in the period 1 April 2010 and 31 March 2011 (source: Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism).

    • KarenO wrote:

      Approx 20,000 British tourists that would be. According to a report from the Ethiopian Development Institue on Torism Flows in Ethiopia from 2010 the number was in 2005 (the latest year included) approx 250,000, and a decrease to 20,000 in five years seems unrealistic. There are no numbers on the Ministy of Culture and Tourism’s website on this matter. Ethiopia had around 20,000 tourists in 1963. But again, the numbers and figures merely serves to illustrate my point.

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