According to the Ministry of Tourism, the tourism industry's income declined by 70% in Ethiopia in the last couple of years.
The war in North Ethiopia, the repeated attacks in various parts of the country and the covid-19 pandemic are believed to have affected the tourism sector.
Still, the hotel business in Adama is thriving with conference tourism.
Despite the market potential, most of the hotels in Adama town have their own websites and social media pages but with no updates. They don’t seem to have the need to update as they have customers the whole year with conferences and conventions from local government agencies and some NGOs.
Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition Tourism (MICE) is one type of tourism that many countries profit from. Kumneger Teketel, a MICE expert and consultant, says Adama is not an international conference city. The conferences that are held in the city are small scale meetings of NGOs and government organizations.
“Such conferences may come regularly but do not generate major income, or foreign currency,” says Kumneger.
Dereje Bizuneh, the manager of Caneth Hotel, said Adama is a well-known conference town and that the hotels don't face problems related with marketing. "Digital marketing is still not growing; self-promotion works are not being done," says Dereje.
Tokkuma is one of the 2 star hotels in Adama. Its manager, Tamagn Tadese said the conference tourism keeps employment and tax returns in place, supporting individuals in particular and the country at large.
The number of international tourists has decreased in recent years, says Tokuma. According to him, the tourists used Adama as a transiting town previously. But now they have shifted to the town of Awash.
Adama is known as “The pearl of rift valley”, located at the edge of The Great Rift Valley in central Ethiopia. It once served as the administrative seat of Oromia Regional State, the largest and most populated region, before it shifted to Addis Ababa.
Since then, the town has become a conference destination. Adama's hotels are restless month to month, hosting meetings.
Adama, unlike other towns in the Rift Valley, has no natural tourism destinations such as lakes, waterfalls and rivers.
Biniyam Eyasu, a hotel management professional, said Adama is far from all airports and the hotels and service providers are dependent on conference business and the hotels are passive to widen their scope of services.
"There are many shortcomings in the service culture, customer handling, hotel standard, room amenity, sport activities areas and promotion and others."
Representative of Executive Hotel, Legesse Gadisa, comments that the town being the center of conference is a great opportunity for their work. “Sometimes we outsource our work to other hotels as we are usually overwhelmed with customers. However, the health and peace crisis has affected our business.”
Henok Belete, the digital marketing expert and the owner of a digital advertising company explains that digital marketing can make a change in the marketing of the town's hotels. He suggests that though the hotels are currently doing well with the customers from conferences, they need to have walking and international customers as well.
“Digital advertising provides a great opportunity to build brand and company profile and also make the hotels accessible to new customers in the country as well as abroad,” Henok said.
The digital marketing expert indicates that by integrating the hotels' system with airlines, tour guides and other service providers like taxi and delivery, digital marketing can create job opportunities and means of income, especially for young technology experts.
“To stay in the game, digital marketing is mandatory,” Henok stressed.
Surah Tekaleg, Manager of Naflet Hotel l, one of Adama's largest hotels which opened recently, said they will not only work and rely on local conferences. “We will focus not only on the local convention but also will work to create a new service trend and become competitive in the market.”
Kumneger underlines the need for Adama to upgrade its conference tourism from the low standard it is standing now to international conventions. He recommends the city administration to build convention centers of international standards to attract the market.
More work should also be undertaken on infrastructures, as Kumneger pointed out, on high-speed internet, transportation, water, and road.
“The government also needs to station a convention office in Adama, exclusively focusing on related works. Adama needs to have such an office to bid on Meetings, Conventions and Exhibitions and promote the potential of the city,” Kumneger proposed.