One among the few
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.