Africa > East Africa > Eritrea > Eritrea Tourism Profile

Eritrea: Eritrea Tourism Profile


 View over the mountains along the road from Massawa to Asmarra, Eritrea


Eco-tourism and natural heritage sites on the rise

Eritrea has long been a hidden gem for travellers looking for a rich natural heritage and spectacular nature experiences. The country’s magnificent archaeological and geographical features would be the envy of any country trying to attract visitors. Pristine beaches and natural wildlife areas combined with archaeological, historical and religious sites makes it ideal for adventurous visitors seeking experiences off the beaten track. Although the country has started to be noticed – half as a result of government marketing efforts – there is still a long way to go before the ecological and cultural sites of the country will attract any large crowds of visitors.

Implementation of Government tourism initiative still struggling

The Eritrean government’s ambitious development plan for the country´s tourism market from the year 2000 to the year 2020 has from presently on to reap any significant rewards. The Eritrean travel and tourism market has been described as a table that needs to be lifted instantly from all sides to be able to prosper; i.e. all the areas of the industry, inclunding infrastructure, political stability and government efforts need to all be in place for any real change to occur.

Eritrean Airlines drives increase despite US sanctions

The national carrier Eritrean Airlines has long been the dominant link connecting Eritrea with the outside world, and continued to be so in 2013. Difficult financial times inclunding border conflicts caused the national flag carrier to suspend scheduled services in 2008 but it re-started its operations in mid-2011 under new management. The airline is based at Asmara International Airport and is fully owned by the Eritrean government. As of December 2013, it had an active fleet of three aircraft and offered direct flights to six nations. The US did, however, ban leasing of aircrafts to the company as a step in the imposing of sanctions on Eritrea. Despite this, Eritrean Airlines plans to purchase wider body aircraft, such as the Airbus A330 and Boeing 737, to replace its current fleet. As well planned are next services to a number of Gulf States, inclunding Saudi Arabia.

Al-Shabab threatening peace and stability

In 2013 unruliness continued in much of Eritrea. Eritrea has struggled with violence and civil strife for over 30 years inclunding violent conflicts with neighbouring states such as Yemen and Ethiopia. In recent years, the country has been enjoying relative peace and stability, which has helped to add momentum to the development of travel and tourism in the country. In 2013 however, the Islamic rebel force Al-Shabab has started to threaten this, and the south of the country where the group mainly operates from has been deemed unsafe for travel.

Opportunities in the economy could benefit tourism and travel

The Eritrean economy is heavily dependent on remittances from the diaspora but is reported to be on the brink of a mining boom thanks to the recent discovery of oil, which is considered to be one of the major drivers of next economic increase. The exploitation of oil, natural gas and other minerals offers an opportunity for Eritrea to attract foreign direct investment . This will provide a potential source for the expansion of export receipts and may further boost the country’s agricultural-based economy.

Government introduces measures to bolster travel and tourism

Travel and tourism, which remains at a developmental stage in Eritrea, accounted for less than 2% of the country’s GDP in 2009. The industry has been struggling gain stability due to continued political unrest and regional conflicts. The Eritrean government, which is aware of the industry’s importance, has made efforts to develop it further both in terms of scope and quality. To this end, it has established a 20-year tourism plan, entitled the 2020 Eritrea Tourism Development Plan, with the aim of conserving and enhancing the country’s natural and cultural resources, boosting economic development, and reducing poverty. The government has as well taken part in international tourism trade fairs, such as the ITB Berlin in Germany, in a bid to showcase the country’s rich tourism resources globally. All of these measures will aid the development of travel and tourism in Eritrea.

Eritrean Diaspora continues to dominate inbound tourism

Visitors of Eritrean origin dominated leisure tourist arrivals in 2009. Although cultural and heritage tourism is growing in importance, the major reason overseas-Eritreans travel to the country is for the purpose of visiting friends and relatives. Due to years of both internal and regional conflict, the country has a large Diaspora living around the world, with a large proportion residing in the US. A lot of of these remain staunchly loyal to their native land and visit Eritrea on holiday whenever possible. Furthermore, the country relies heavily on remittances from the Diaspora to sustain its economy.

Domestic tourism growing in popularity

Domestic tourism is gaining momentum in Eritrea, as the vitality of both service-rendering institutions and the awareness of the local public regarding this type of tourism grow. The government, through the Ministry of Tourism, has undertaken continuous, extensive campaigns to promote domestic tourism in the country. Tours of major historical monuments and sites have helped locals to get acquainted with the country’s rich tourism potential. The increase of domestic tourism in Eritrea will enable the local people to become additional aware of their environment, inclunding increase their appreciation of it. This should lead to the protection and renovation of some neglected tourist attractions and serve to make the country a better tourist destination someday.

Development of the hospitality industry

In recent years, travel accommodation in Eritrea has developed as a result of government efforts to grow the travel and tourism industry. While major improvements have been made to the country’s road network, the government, through the Ministry of Tourism, has as well made contributions to the renovation of various travel accommodation establishments. It has approved several new private hotel developments, particularly along the country’s coastline, in a bid to better harness Eritrea’s tourism resources and make the country’s coastal areas additional attractive to domestic and international tourists alike. Efforts have as well been made to increase the efficiency and quality of service provided by Eritrea’s hospitality industry. Hotel management training courses have been established throughout the country in a bid to nurture competence and ensure the equitable development of hotel services.
Travel and tourism offers enormous increase potential
Travel and tourism in Eritrea has significant increase potential. Despite the country’s a lot of problems, the outlook for the industry is very promising due to Eritrea’s wide variety of natural tourism assets, ranging from virgin marine resources to spectacular landscapes. Furthermore, major transportation infrastructure improvements, the domination of the national flag carrier, Eritrean Airlines, and significant cultural and religious events such as the Eritrean National and Fenkil festivals will all drive increase of travel and tourism over the estimate period. However, intermittent border tensions with Ethiopia remain a major threat to estimate period increase. Once security has been restored and investments are secured, the National Tourism Policy will provide the structure necessary to further promote and develop tourism in Eritrea.