Ecotourism Concept: Development And Promotion Of Ecotourism In The .

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Ecotourism Concept:Development and Promotion ofEcotourism in the proposedLake Tana Biosphere ReserveJessie McComb & Mekonnen G/EgziabherMarch 2014Report submitted to NABU as part of the project‚ For People and Nature: Establishment of aUNESCO Biosphere Reserve at Lake Tana, Ethiopia implemented by NABU in cooperation withMichael Succow Foundation Supported by the German Federal Ministry for EconomicCooperation and Development (BMZ).


I.IntroductionLocated within the Amhara National Regional State in the North West of the Ethiopian highlands, LakeTana is a biodiversity, cultural, and historical hotspot. The fertile region with its thousands of years ofcultural history is of national and international significance for biodiversity and cultural landscapeheritage. The lake is Ethiopia’s biggest and most elevated fresh water lake and as the source of the BlueNile represents the water tower of Africa. Its water resource is the fundament for agriculture and fishingand feeds the surrounding wetlands. The ancient monasteries, unique coffee culture, protected forestsand impressive bird and wildlife also make the lake a popular tourism destination with international anddomestic tourists alike. However, increasing pressure on ecosystems and their natural resourcesresulted in massive land degradation, erosion, and eutrophication of the lake with considerable effectson flora and fauna. Additionally, the lack of proper preservation techniques has results in thedegradation of the monastery structures, frescos, and relics found around the lake.The biodiversity and cultural significance coupled with the environmental and preservation threatspositions Lake Tana as an ideal location of the development of a United Nations Educational, Scientificand Cultural Organization Educational (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve. UNESCO Biosphere Reserves (BR)aim to create balanced relationships between people and nature and to encourage sustainabledevelopment. BRs leverage networking, share learning, maintain ecological and cultural diversity andsecure ecosystem services for human well-being to create suitability. Through the network of BR aroundthe world, UNESCO aims to build capacity in the management of complex social-ecological systems.Together the natural and cultural assets and the crucial needs for conservation provide the foundationand need for the proposed UNESCO Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve (BR).The Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) is supporting the development of the Lake TanaUNESCO BR in order to conserve valuable habitats and cultural features and foster regional sustainabledevelopment. As a key element in the development of the BR, this document will serve as The Lake TanaEcotourism Concept to guide the development of ecotourism in the BR. It is a tailor-madeimplementation plan and methodology for the development and marketing of ecotourism products inthe Lake Tana BR. The concept includes enterprises structures, capacity building needs, feasibility offunding, suggested benefit sharing mechanisms to be endorsed by communities, a budget, and timelinefor implementation.II.Ecotourism Concept BackgroundNABU, The Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, is implementing the project ‘For people andnature – Establishment of a UNESCO BR at Lake Tana, Ethiopia’ jointly with Michael Succow Foundationfrom 2012 up to 2015. Lake Tana area which belongs to the higher catchment area of the Blue Nile Riveris located in the Amhara National Regional State (ANRS) in the North West of the Ethiopian highlands(10 58 -12 47 northern latitude/ 36 45 -38 14 eastern longitude). The target area covers the lakeadjacent areas which are part of the catchment area and comprises the three zones of West Gojam,1 Page

South Gondar, and North Gondar (divided into 10 Woredas including Bahir Dar City administration andmore than 135 Kebeles).Within the BR development, one goal is to expand and diversify tourism in the Lake Tana area to includeecotourism through nature-based tourism products. The goal will be achieved through tourism productdevelopment which builds the appreciation and incentives for conservation, develops new jobs, createsincome generation opportunities through appropriate services and businesses and preserves localknowledge on natural resource management where appropriate. NABU has already worked withpartners and consultants to assess and select potential ecotourism products in the destination, developbusiness plans with the communities, and create a strategy for ecotourism development and promotionin the proposed Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve through a tested ecotourism development methodology.III.Lake Tana Environment & Tourism PotentialLake Tana is the biggest fresh water lake in Ethiopia and is the source of the Blue Nile River that journeysthrough South Sudan and becomes the Nile River flowing through Sudan and Egypt. The lake is a keyresource for agricultural production, fishing, and wetland maintenance. The wetlands form a crucial partof the Lake Tana ecosystem providing bird hibernation sites for migratory European birds, breedinggrounds for the endemic wattled crane and the black-crown crane, and breeding grounds for local fishpopulations. The lake is home to hippopotami, crocodiles, monitor lizards, mountain pythons, and arange of endemic fish species. The shores of the lake also boast over 100 tree species includingnumerous endemic species and the wild coffee trees that provide an important source of income forcommunities.Lake Tana is a vital source of water andagricultural productivity. The surroundinglands have been used for agriculture andfishing for thousands of years. Small holderagriculture represents the majority oflivelihoods in the area, about 80% of the localpopulation. Communities also engage infishing, livestock breeding, small scaleproducing industries, and tourism activities.Although there is a strong rural-urbaninteraction with seasonal migration and trade,43% of the population around the lake is livingFigure 1: Reed harvesting for market day in Zeghiein bare poverty. However, tourism is becoming Peninsulaan increasingly important source of income forcommunities.Bahir Dar and Lake Tana are already key stops along Ethiopia’s most popular tourist itinerary, theNorthern Historic Route. The route typically includes visits to Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, Tiss Abay, LakeTana, Gonder, Simien Mountains National Park, Axum, Hawzeen, and Lalibela. The World Bank2 Page

estimated that about 77% of international leisure tourists to Ethiopia participate in the Northern HistoricRoute. Information collected by the Bureau of Culture, Tourism and Parks Development in Bahir Darfound that over 84,000 local and international visitors travel to Bahir Dar each year, spending more than55 million Ethiopian Birr. 1 Approximately 40% of the visitors are international and 60% are local.2Additionally, the Bureau has found an increasing trend in arrivals of both domestic and internationalvisitors to Bahir Dar (see Figure 2), substantiating the potential of Lake Tana as emergent destination.Domestic and International TouristArrivals to Lake Tana50000Number of Tourists4500040000350003000025000Domestic Tourists2000015000International Figure 2: Domestic and International Tourist Arrivals to Lake TanaBureau of Culture, Tourism, and Parks DevelopmentLake Tana’s position as a key tourism destination is a crucial advantage for the surroundingcommunities. Tour operators will be more willing to integrate new products into their itineraries if theyare familiar with the destination and its services and do not need to include additional transit time (e.g.time spend in a car or airplane). Further, Lake Tana is a popular destination with expatriate tourists, whoare usually willing to try new products, are more forgiving with poor service during a start-up phase, andcontrol important “word-of-mouth” marketing channels.These market advantages are coupled with rich natural and cultural tourism assets in communitiesaround the lake. Biodiversity hotspots, bird habits, natural forests, and wetlands provide a foundationfor ecotourism development. The unique cultures and histories of the communities can contribute to1Bureau of Culture, Tourism, and Parks Development. 2011. Lake Tana Tourism destinations Management andNetworking Development Plan. World Bank Niles Beles Integrated Water Resource Development.2This percentage did not hold for 2013 figures but final data is not available for this year.3 Page

robust tourism products that satisfy the demands of major tourism markets. Additionally, communitieshave knowledge of tourism and understand its potential to impact their livelihoods. Together, theavailable tourism assets, the ready and accessible market, and the eager communities generate a highpotential for ecotourism development in Lake Tana.However, the economic and environmental situation of the communities around Lake Tana is at risk dueto limited access to income generation and livelihood activities and an inability to successful accesstourism markets. This in turn has put further pressure on an already fragile ecosystem throughunsustainable farming, fishing, and harvesting practices. In order to improve the livelihoods of thecommunities in the project area, tourism stakeholders must work hand in hand with the communitymembers and government partners to help the community develop ecotourism products and furtherlinks to the existing tourism activities. The major obstacle facing increased economic activity throughtourism is a general lack of capacity and understanding of tourism in the program areas, as well as a lackof connectivity and networking among stakeholders and linkages to the tourism value chain. This hasprohibited the communities from successfully developing and marketing tourism products. To helpmitigate these obstacles, tourism stakeholders must work with community members to enhance theircapacities to develop and manage tourism products. It will provide start up support, link communityinitiatives to financial assistance, ensure initiatives are market driven (for example, linked to touroperators and hotels), as well as link products to their respective sales channels. These activities willassist the community in building sustainable businesses and employment opportunities in ways thatutilize and protect biodiversity assets.IV.Analysis of Potential DestinationsThere are a range of destinations surrounding Lake Tana that could offer a variety of ecotourismexperiences if properly developed. Through research and community engagement, the following ten keydestinations for ecotourism development were identified including: Zeghie Peninsula Deke Island Blue Nile Falls Daga Estifanos Debre Mariam Bahir Dar City including the Negede Woitocommunity Gorgora Fogera Flood Plain Kibran Gabriel and Entos Tana QirkosThese destinations were assessed to analyze their potential for ecotourism development. Eachdestination was visited by tourism development experts and assessed with a set of criteria to determineits ecotourism product development potential and readiness for development. Each destination wasthen ranked based on scores derived from the criteria in order to identify the destinations with the mostpotential for ecotourism development. Based on the assessment and rankings, the destinations where4 Page

plotted onto a graph (Figure 3) to highlight the destinations with the most potential and the highestlevel of readiness for destination development.3(Blue NileFalls)Bahir Dar (Negede Woito)Figure 3: Lake Tana Ecotourism Assessment ResultsDestinations in the top, right hand quadrant, Zeghie Peninsula, Tiss Abay, and Gorgora, were identifiedas those that have the most potential for tourism development and the highest level of readiness toreceive support through ecotourism development initiatives. These destinations were shortlisted forfurther investigation and market verification. The market verification process included consultinginbound tour operators to ensure that any new ecotourism products developed will be marketable toexisting and dominate market channels. It should be noted that 85% of leisure tourists to Ethiopia comethrough tour operators and their buy-in at the beginning of a project is essential.Zeghie PeninsulaThe Zeghie Peninsula has the highest potential among the destinations in the Lake Tana area. It is a keyattraction on Lake Tana and a sizeable percentage of tourists to Bahir Dar already visit Zeghie to viewthe monasteries. Initial potential products and interventions that could be developed include:3Note that Fogera Flood Plains is not included on this chart since the assessment team was not able to visit the sitedue to inaccessibility at the time of assessment.5 Page

community restaurant, campsite, craft sales, interactive coffee tour, birdwatching, trekking/hiking, andartisan enterprise development and demonstration.All product improvements and developments were welcomed by the majority of the tour operators.Overall, the tour operators noted a need to diversify and expand product offerings around Lake Tana toincrease the length of stay. The craft demonstration area and organization of the vendors was alsostressed by the tour operators as a necessary improvement. Finally, the interactive coffee tour washighlighted by tour operators as an excellent idea thatwould significantly improve the visitors’ experiences.However, there are also serious challenges to cohesivedestination development in Zeghie. Currently there islittle coordination among stakeholders, which hascaused tension between community members andlocal guides. Further, there are too many communitymembers providing the same service (craft sales andchai/buna sales) with little diversification in productofferings. Based on input from tourism experts, touroperators, hotel owners, government representatives Figure 4: Traditional paintings sold in Zeghieas well as from previous studies, specific challenges to Peninsula are popular tourist souvenirs.destination development include: Existing guide association: Although the existence of a guide association means that tourism hasbeen developed to some extent, the current association does not have a good relationship withthe community. The community sees the guides as the only ones that are benefitting fromtourism and the community does not feel that they are sharing this benefit. The guideassociation will need to be incorporated into a larger scale ecotourism cooperative on Zeghie toensure benefit sharing and coordination. However, the guides may be reluctant to do this, so itwill take time and needs government pressure to succeed. Additionally, tour operators havenoted the lack of knowledge of the guides, especially language proficiency and productknowledge, which will need to be addressed to grow tourism in Zeghie. Harassment of tourists: The craft vendors line the trails from the jetty to the monasteries andconstantly harass tourists asking them to purchase a craft item. If a tourist stops at one stall, avendor from another stall will try to lure them away to their own stall. This creates a negativeenvironment for the tourist who usually does not buy anything because they feel threatened. Too many vendors: Currently there are too many craft vendors (110 plus) selling handcrafts ofmore or less the same kind to the tourists. They have saturated the market and are limiting eachother’s sales opportunities by harassing the visitors. Past association failure: The government has tried to organize the craft vendors in the pastwithout success. Previously, the government organized the vendors into more than fiveassociations which continued to offer the same services in direct competition with each other.They continued to harass tourists, trying to pull them toward one craft area versus the other.6 Page

The associations were not well organized and did not take community input into account duringthe planning process. Ultimately, the associations dissolved and now the members are vendingindividually. Tourism development stakeholders must work with these community members tobetter understand their needs and gain their commitment to establishing a competitive industrywithout tourist harassment.Poor food and beverage infrastructure: Currently, the offerings of Chai Buna and associatedfoodstuffs are not supplied in a hygienic way that gives confidence to the tourist to buy them.Hygiene and sanitation are key issues for the successful implementation of the communityrestaurant. Tour operators cannot risk their tourists becoming ill on the trip and will avoid eatingat a restaurant that cannot guarantee acceptable hygiene standards. Proper and intensivetraining and monitoring will need to take place in Zeghie in order to make food supply asuccessful business.Poor infrastructure: The existing infrastructure in Zeghie is not sufficient for tourists. The trailsneed improvement and there is a critical need for a proper, tourist quality toilet. Additionally,tour operators are not pleased with the current boat service to Zeghie and feel that the pricesare too high for the level of service.Low artisan skills: Although there are a number of artisans in Zeghie and a long tradition of craftmaking, the current skills of artisans are very low. Tourism development stakeholders will needto provide coordinated training and production development skills to the artisans in order forthem to be successful in the tourist market.High investment costs: Zeghie is a key destination in the Lake Tana area and the proposedproducts will require a high level of investment in both infrastructure and training. However, ifsuccessful, Zeghie can stand as an example and model for future destination developmentaround the lake.Low community benefit of trekking and bird watching: Developing hiking/trekking trails andbird watching will increase the number of tourists to the peninsula and lengthen their time ofstay. However, these products have little wide scale community benefit outside of the guideassociation.Lack of overnight accommodation: Currently there is no overnight accommodation on theZeghie Peninsula which limits the amount of time tourists can spend in the communities. Properdevelopment of a camping facility would assist in increasing the length of stay of visitors.GorgoraGorgora is well positioned to be developed as a destination. It is located between Bahir Dar and Gondorand is accessible by both road and water transport. Additionally, with the expansion of the Kim and TimLodge, the improvements at the Gorgora Port Hotel, and the construction of two other new lodges inthe area, quality accommodation will soon be available. Potential products and interventions in Gorgoracould include: cultural village tour, guide association development, and artisan development project.The idea of creating a village tour was received well by all tour operators. If it is developed properly, itwill give an opportunity of seeing the local way of life and culture while increasing community incomeand tourist length of stay. The destination also has great potential for bird watching. Overall, Gorgora7 Page

was the destination that excited the tour operators the most as it is under developed but well placedalong the Bahir Dar – Gonder route. With the expansion accommodation and the planned creation of anasphalt road from Gondor to Gorgora, the destination has potential to grow quickly. Working with thecommunity at this early stage will be crucial to ensuring a positive visitor experience and communitybenefits from tourism.Gorgora currently has a low number of tourists visiting each year. The communities in the area havelittle awareness of the potential of tourism and are not sensitized to tourists needs. This has led toharassment of tourists by children, which creates a negative environment for tourists. Additionally,community members in the area have low English skills and are not trained for the tourism industry. Thissite has potential but would require significant training and investment in the community in order to bea successful destination. In Gorgora, the tour operators mentioned the lack of good accommodation andthe rough road that leads to Gorgora from Gondar. Fortunately, accommodation is expanding with twonew lodges under way and a new asphalt road is currently under construction. The tour operatorsnormally arrange tours to Gorgora by boat as a Lake Tana crossing cruise (from Bahir Dar to Gondar orvice versa) however the tour operators may stop this tour since the price of boats transport isincreasing. Currently, tourists only spend few hours in Gorgora before heading to Gondar.Tiss AbayTiss Abay is another key destination in the Lake Tana area. Most tour operators include a visit to theBlue Nile Falls in their itineraries. The landscape in the area is beautiful and initial potential productdevelopment ideas include: community restaurant, craft sales and demonstration area, tej makingexperience, and artisan enterprise development. The idea of establishing a community restaurant issupported by tour operators as the vastmajority of the visitors are local. Here theinternational visitor will also have a chance totaste a local cuisine. It will also reduce theeffort of bringing packed food which is usuallycold at the time of eating. The craftdemonstration area will give opportunities forthe local artisans economically and artistically.Guides here have to be trained and graded astheir knowledge, ethics and performance variesgreatly between individuals. There was someinterest in the tej making tour but safety issueswere raised.Figure 5: The Blue Nile Falls with a full flowHowever, there are also real challenges to tourism development in Tiss Abay. The chief among thesechallenges is the inconsistent flow of the waters to the Blue Nile Falls. Despite the presence of the new,higher power hydroelectric facility upstream, the government still occasionally diverts water to theoriginal, smaller hydropower plant leaving the waterfall with little water. If Tiss Abay is to develop as aworld class attraction, the issue of diverting water from the waterfall should be resolved. If this does not8 Page

happen, tour operators are likely to remove Tiss Abay from their itineraries. Additional challenges todestination development for the above mentioned products include. Hygiene and sanitation: Similar to Zeghie, a community restaurant in Tiss Abay will need highquality hygiene and sanitation skills which will require training and monitoring. Existing Associations: The local government has already helped the community to organize into4-5 associations for the sale of chai/buna. These associations have chai/buna bets along thetrail. However, their locations are too close to each other and the trail is not long enough tomerit multiple stops. Tourism development stakeholders will need to work with all of theassociations to build a more comprehensive product which includes existing beneficiariesthrough a more competitive approach. Existing Tour guide Association: The feedback from the tour operators’ consultation about thetour guide association at Tiss Abay was very negative. The tour operators complain about lack ofknowledge, lack of language skill and above all lack of professional discipline and poor customercare. This has to be corrected by using both training and enforcing law and order. Tourismdevelopment stakeholders can work on this in partnership with the Bureau of Culture, Tourism,and Parks Development and government stakeholders at all levels. Child labor: Currently women send their children out to meet tourists to sell them handcrafts.Not only does this harass the tourists but many tourists consider it to be child labor which castsa negative light on the destination. Any development efforts will carefully avoid promoting childlabor. Safety issues: Bringing tourists to local tej bets could create safety issues since local customerscan become aggressive when drunk. Additionally, when investigating the potential for the tejtour, the team was met with a lack of interest by the tej bet owner.In Tiss Abay the challenge raised by all tour operators is the hassle from the local tour guides and theirlack of knowledgeable. This was noted as the issue which needs immediate action by the concernedauthority. The tour operators feel that the guides try to extract money from the tourist withoutproviding sufficient service or by imposing unnecessary services. Tourists have encountered situationswhere the guide will physically support them during the hike, without the tourist’s permission, and thenlater claim an exorbitant fee for this unsolicited service. Additionally, the local children contribute to theunfriendly environment and hassle of the tourists. They follow the tourist and pester them for items likepen or money or try to sell them craft items

in the proposed Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve through a tested ecotourism development methodology. III. Lake Tana Environment & Tourism Potential Lake Tana is the biggest fresh water lake in Ethiopia and is the source of the Blue Nile River that journeys through South Sudan and becomes the Nile River flowing through Sudan and Egypt. The lake is a key

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