Djibouti: Improving the Tourism Sector in Djibouti

Although Djibouti has long been a sought-after tourism destination for adventure travellers, the more significant world tourist sector is now aware of the country’s tremendous business potential.

  • Djibouti City was selected as the World Capital of Culture and Tourist by the European Council on Tourism and Trade in April 2018.
  • One of Djibouti’s unique tourist products incorporates sustainability.
  • President Ismael Omar Guelleh’s administration has succeeded in increasing infrastructural investment.

International acknowledgement of Djibouti’s tourism potential

Djibouti City was selected as the World Capital of Culture and Tourist by the European Council on Tourism and Trade in April 2018. The selection brought the country into the global media spotlight as a tourism destination.

This came after the European Academy of Tourism named President Guelleh a World Leader of Tourism in March 2018, a title given to leaders who have demonstrated a dedication to placing tourism at the core of national policies and recognizing the meaningful progress that comes with cultural development.

These honours show that the government is taking steps to capitalize on its resources. According to the World Bank, barely 10 per cent of Djibouti’s tourist potential is being realized. However, the government has fostered a development framework that has positioned tourism as a crucial pillar of future growth. The government hopes to attract 500,000 international tourists annually by 2030 and create 30,000 employment opportunities. This goal is anchored in Djibouti’s Vision 2035.

Moves to preserve Djibouti’s heritage

Although Djibouti has long been a sought-after tourism destination for adventure travellers, the more significant world tourist sector is now aware of the country’s tremendous business potential.

Djibouti’s worldwide popularity in recent years originates from the country’s distinctive natural landscapes and beautiful seascapes. Indeed, the country is rich in potential UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Djibouti has ten sites on UNESCO’s Tentative List. The list recognizes locations with “outstanding universal importance” and the potential to be designated as World Heritage in the foreseeable future. As Djibouti goes ahead with World Heritage site proposals, the government will seek international recognition and funding for conservation efforts.

Promoting ecotourism for environmental sustainability

The government’s strategy for tourism’s future is based on a long-term vision. One of Djibouti’s unique tourist products incorporates sustainability. Djibouti hosts the Whale Shark Festival annually to promote this sector while protecting the national waters.

The event is made possible by the tourism ministry of Djibouti in partnership with the ONTD (Office National du Tourisme de Djibouti) and other public and private sector actors. The marine festival is held in the Gulf of Tadjoura because whale sharks migrate there from October to February, allowing guests to swim with the sharks under safe circumstances.

Other important initiatives include the government designating tourism as a priority industry eligible for preferential funding from Djibouti’s state-owned Economic Development Fund to encourage private actors to grow the sustainable segment.

The government should capitalize on ecotourism in Djibouti. This move will improve local inhabitants’ well-being while preserving the environment in the long run. The administration must establish additional types of tourism with the least possible environmental, social, and economic implications while also matching with sustainable aims and assuring the involvement of the local community.

Enhancing business tourism in Djibouti

Despite Djibouti’s natural beauty, most visitors come for business rather than pleasure. According to the ONTD, 98 per cent of visitors come to conduct business. According to Djibouti Vision 2035, the government intends to increase leisure tourism to 88 per cent of total tourists by 2030.

Business visitors often visit Djibouti to maintain and manage foreign military outposts, but they seldom leave the capital city to enjoy the country’s natural wonders. In Djibouti, promoting secondary attractions might well assist in spreading the positive impacts of tourism.

Because of the significant infrastructural improvements driven by Chinese interests, there has been an inflow of business visitors from China in particular. Asia will account for roughly half of the arrivals in the government’s goal of attracting 500,000 tourists annually by 2030.

Despite the relative importance of business travel, the meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibits market remains relatively undeveloped, notwithstanding increased activity in recent years. As a result, increasing financing and investment in corporate tourism should be a top focus.

Improving transport, travel and accessibility

Aside from high accommodation rates, accessibility is likely the most critical problem for the country’s tourist business. Djibouti City holds the majority of tourism infrastructure. However, the remote areas hold the most popular tourist destinations.

While the government has increased the national road network from 700 to 2900 kilometres since 2010, many major tourist attractions are only accessible by off-road vehicles. Road network development increases transportation, making tourist attractions more accessible and journeys simpler.

One of the appeals of these locations is that they are off the usual roads. As a result, as they mature, these places may lose some of their allure to particular sorts of travellers. As a result, Djibouti must reconsider its marketing approach and whether it should focus its efforts on appealing to adventurers or mass populations.

Developing the human resource in the Djibouti tourism sector

As facilities increase, Djibouti’s hotel and tourism industry is experiencing a scarcity of competent labour. In 2018, the ONTD and the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training established the Arta Hotel Industry and Tourism Trades Training Centre to solve this.

Arta’s Hospitality and Catering High School was the only training facility for the tourist and hotel industries before this. The training centre also contains a hotel, meeting facilities, and a restaurant, allowing students on-the-job training in various hospitality industries.

This facility has many purposes. These include assisting in reducing young unemployment. The facility offers technical training, retraining, and competency upgrades for existing employees in the industry.

These efforts represent a solid start toward providing the tourist industry with competent labour. Nevertheless, more effort remains necessary to meet expanding demand, particularly with new hotels scheduled to open in the medium term.

A glimpse into the future of tourism in Djibouti

Djibouti has many to offer travellers with its beautiful beaches, gorgeous coral reefs, and cultural and historical sites. However, tourism only accounts for 3 per cent of GDP, and additional investment remains necessary required to raise this proportion.

The government must make significant expenditures on infrastructural amenities to attract tourists and diversify the economy. Efforts are underway to leverage this rising awareness into more arrivals and investments.

Economic diversification beyond commerce, as defined in the Djibouti Vision 2035 plan, the government’s national development program released in 2014, would depend primarily on the country’s capacity to sustainably enhance its tourism offerings.

President Ismael Omar Guelleh’s administration has succeeded in increasing infrastructural investment. The infrastructure remains critical to fostering tourism. However, the nation must do more to enhance international connectivity and domestic accessibility to achieve top tourism status.

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