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Growing Chinese travelers a boon to Ethiopia's service industry: experts

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-05-10 10:50

Traditional houses in the Ethiopian Highlands.[Photo/VCG]

As the number of Chinese travelers to Ethiopia steadily rises, the service industry in the East African country is among those that have received the most benefits.

The airline industry and the tourism sector, in particular, have gained from the growing Chinese travelers, according to the Ethiopian Airlines Group and the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

According to the Ethiopian Airlines Group, which is considered the largest airline group in Africa, close to 4,000 Chinese passengers currently use the Ethiopian airline's flight services on a daily basis.

Ethiopia's flag carrier in its report presented to the Ethiopian parliament last month indicated that "Chinese passengers represent one of the largest customer bases of the airlines."

The Ethiopian airlines group, which is widely recognized as one of Africa's fastest growing airlines, has been frequently expressing its interest in attracting Chinese passengers into the African continent and beyond.

Esayas Woldemariam, Managing Director of Ethiopian airline's International Service, recently told Xinhua that the airlines has strong aspirations to grow its relations with Chinese customers towards being "the most Chinese-friendly transit hub and airline in the African continent."

Explaining why the Ethiopian airline is preferred by majority of Chinese passengers, Woldemariam said that "we have a Chinese help desk here at the hub for passengers passing through here to Africa and coming back, we have Chinese dedicated staff here, we have Chinese crew on board, we have Chinese food, and we have Chinese call-center."

The airline also celebrates Chinese festivals in a bid to attract its Chinese customers, which include a special event for Chinese nationals returning home for the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival every February.

Ethiopian Airlines is currently the biggest carrier of passenger and cargo between China and Africa, with 5 destinations in China that are Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou. The company has also finalized its preparations to add Shenzhen on the list.

Another service sector that strongly benefited from international Chinese visitors is Ethiopia's tourism industry, in which the East African country has recorded $169.6 million in revenue from 45,307 Chinese tourists that visited the country in 2017.

Chinese tourists are the largest group of tourists to Ethiopia. The 2017 Chinese tourists figures have shown a steady increase from 2016 numbers, which stood at 41,659.

Speaking to Xinhua, Gezahegn Abate, Public and International Relations Director at Ethiopia Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MoCT), said that the ministry is "encouraging Chinese investment in Ethiopia's hospitality sector with a view to dramatically increasing the number of Chinese tourists."

The ministry further announced its hopes that the increasing flight connection between Ethiopia and Chinese destinations will help sustain the steady increase of Chinese tourists to Ethiopia.

Ethiopian airlines group had previously revealed its aspirations to represent the bigger share of the Chinese tourists' market, which at more than 120 million is estimated to be the single largest tourist numbers globally.

In an interview with Xinhua, Tewolde GebreMariam, CEO of the Ethiopian Airlines Group, has said with the air carrier having a presence in China since 1973, one of the handful foreign airlines pioneers at the time, it has been a witness to the economic transformation of the Asian giant.

"Today, China is the single largest market for Ethiopian Airlines with 5 destinations and more than 31 total weekly flights," he said, adding that ET has the largest market share on flights between China and Africa, employing dozens of Chinese nationals as cabin crew members in its flight to China.

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