Hawassa, Bahir Dar and Bishoftu have been selected by the Ethiopian Convention Bureau as upcoming secondary business tourism destinations. The three cities are designated to serve as Meeting Incentives Conferencing and Exhibition (MICE) tourism centers as part of the Bureau’s strategy to increase convention centers and drive economic growth. Currently, Addis Ababa is the only center for international events.
The Convention Bureau, established in February 2021 under the Ministry of Tourism, has selected these cities based on its MICE strategy, taking into consideration accessibility, accommodation, facility, peace and security as well as current business tourism trends.
“Ethiopia’s tourism sector is mostly based on leisure tourism,” Wondmagegn Girma, Representative Director of Ethiopian Convention Bureau, told Addis Zeybe. “Before the establishment of the Bureau, the business tourism sector was mismanaged. It was following informal management within the federal, regional and city administration structures.”
The Convention Bureau has plans to construct 5 convention centers in the coming 10 years to attract 10 MICE events per year, As most of the infrastructure in the country is currently conference-centered, product and service diversification is part of the Bureau’s plan.
“Considering that Ethiopia is headquarters of the African Union and the UNECA, the business tourism sector is untapped,” said Wondmagegn. “The studies we have undertaken for the establishment of the national convention bureau also reflect this national capacity to attract MICE tourism.”
Bahir Dar, the capital city of Amhara Regional State hosts multiple local and continental conferences like the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, an annual meeting centered on African-led solutions for security issues on the continent.
More than 54.6 million Birr income was gained from conferences held in Bahir Dar in the budget year 2019/20, according to the Amhara Region Tourism Bureau. The city, with over 10 stars labeled hotels, is considered a conducive destination for MICE tourism.
Investments made in Bahir Dar include the Nile International Conference Centre, inaugurated in 2014, at a cost of more than half a billion Birr.
“There were around 66 thousand people attending conferences in Bahir Dar,” said Sileshi Fekad, tourism marketing expert at Amhara Region Tourism Bureau. “This is despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the tourism sector.”
Delegates in Africa spend an average of $359 daily, spending approximately 3.5 days at their destinations according to the International Congress and Conference Association.
“MICE tourists tend to spend about 6 fold more than leisure tourists. The country needs a well-planned strategy as MICE tourists travel for specific purposes,” added Sileshi.
The Ethiopian Convention Bureau, currently established only under the federal government structure, plans to reach regional and city administration structures, raising the continental competence to attract event-based tourism.
To promote and raise the sector’s benefit, the Bureau will review and assess the event and financial requirements, suggest suitable venues and service providers, and support in convention planning including touring, facilitating visitors information desk at events and post-event servicing like evaluations.
“Beneficiary sectors, including the hospitality industry, were focused on local customers, but should now plan to raise their service for international MICE tourism customers,” added representative director Wondmagegn.
The business tourism sector is expected to support the community and providers in the hospitality sector.