Tourism Stakeholders and their Operations in Central Rift Valley Areas of Ethiopia

Tourism Stakeholders and their Operations in Central Rift Valley Areas of Ethiopia

Tesfaye Zeleke[1] (PhD) and Taye Negussie (PhD)[2]

Abstract

Cognizant to the prevailing gaps of knowledge on the operation of tourism organizations in Central Ethiopia, this paper attempts to elucidate tourism stakeholders and their operations on Bishoftu – Modjo-Hawassa tourist corridor. The paper deployed qualitative data collection methods and reviews of secondary sources and examines the practices in the study area contextualizing within the framework of stakeholders theory in tourism. It is noted that the Ethiopian tourism sector in general and those operating on the aforementioned route in particular have been witnessing ever flourishing trend. Among others, noteworthy achievements have been recorded on the genesis of service providing institutions such as government offices, hotels, tour operators, micro enterprises and local tour guide associations. However, the superficial nature of coordination and competitive practices that prevail among the tourism stakeholders on the route have created constraints and thus compromised on the delivery of tourism product and service delivery. The paper informs concerned actors to come up with all embracing strategic options that strengthen their collaborations in Central Ethiopia.  

 

 

 

Key terms: Tourism Stakeholders, Stakeholders Theory, Central Rift Valley Area Tourist Sites, Coordination and Competition,

 

  1. Background

Tourism by its nature is a multi-sector activity and it involves a number of stakeholders. For authors such as Gray(1989), stakeholders are characterized as actors with an interest or stake in tourism, which include individuals, groups or organizations impacted by actions of tourism development.  Trist (1983) further denoted that tourism organizations and stakeholders need to shift from an intra-organizational goal to maximize the interests of all parties and entities in the area of tourism operations. This would happen through creation of robust systems of collaboration and sympathetic activities across sectors.  

Authors such as Gray (1989) proposed several elements as the benefits of inter-organizational and stakeholders’ collaboration in tourism. They emphasized interdependence, dealing constructively with differences, promote joint ownership of decisions, collective responsibility for the ongoing directions, and Collaboration is defined as an emergent process by which tourism organizations collectively deal with growing complexity.

It was in cognition to these acclaimed functions and practical benefits of collaborative operations that this paper aims to explore the cooperation among stakeholders providing tourism products and services in Central Rift Vallye areas in Ethiopia.

  1. Justifying the exploration on the operations of stakeholders in Tourism

The Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism is envisioned to be one of the five top destinations in Africa by 2020. However, there are series of impediments hindering the attainment of this preset vision. Among these, lack of coordination and cooperation among the stakeholders of tourism can be mentioned as the major fragmentation frontline.

Even if there are lots of efforts being pumped and put in place by Ministry of Culture and Tourism at the Federal level and by all respective regional tourism bureaus as well as other stakeholders, the problem of disintegration continues to surface out and act to obstruct the operation of tourism stakeholders in Central Rift Valley Areas of Ethiopia. Above and beyond, tourism businesses like tour operations, travel agencies, hotels and other firms have not developed interactive partnership which epitomizes their limited collaborations.

There have been research undertakings in Ethiopia that partly deals with the problems related to stakeholders coordination in tourism sector such as Tamirat (2015); Tesfaye (2015); Mulugeta (2010); Mulugeta (2012), Mulugeta (2017), Ayalew (2009), Adem (2008) and Getachew (1999). Nonetheless, coordination problem continues to challenge and undermine the operations of tourism stakeholders. Therefore, this paper aspires to assess the key issues among tourism stakeholders in terms of coordination and competition in central Rift Valley areas of Ethiopia.

  1. Objectives

This paper has got two objectives: general and specific objectives, both of them are stated herein under.

3.1 Overall objective

The overall objective of the paper is to explore the operational practices of the tourism stakeholders in Central Rift Valley areas of Ethiopia, along the Bishoftu- Modjo-Hawassa tourist route.

3.2 Specific objectives

The specific objectives are to:

  1. Identify the tourism stakeholders  in Central Rift Valley Areas of Ethiopia,
  2. See the areas of cooperation among the tourism institutions,  
  3. Explore the competitive practices among the tourism institutions, and
  4. Identify the bottlenecks to the operation of tourism stakeholders in central Ethiopia.  

 

  1. Methods and  Description of the Study Route

This sub-section gives the highlights on the research paradigm entailed in fieldwork, analysis and reporting. It also extends to portray the actual methods deployed for data collection a well as keeps in touch readers with the succinct description of the Bishoftu-Modjo-Hawassa tourist route.  

  1. Research Paradigm

This paper adopts an interpretative research paradigm, which concentrates on and helps to interpret the actions of respective stakeholders and re-construction of stakeholders’ positions. For Nuryatano (2003: 32), interpretative research paradigm “involves understanding human behavior through lived experiences.”  As a research paradigm, interpretivism defines reality in relation to the contexts of the phenomena under investigation while its epistemological stance also took subjective understanding (Scotland, 2012), which shares much with the constructivist school of thought. Therefore, this paradigm ground to capture the experiences of the major tourism stakeholders on the study route.

  1. Research Design

This paper entirely relied on a qualitative research design and strategy, involving in-depth interviews, key informant interviews and observations. These methods were employed in exploring the role of each of the stakeholders in light of cooperation and coordination in tourism around the selected tourist sites. The interviewees of the study were managed through purposive sampling based on their experiences, prior knowledge and level of expertise in relation to tourism stakeholders and their operation on the route. 

The in-depth interviews were held with the representatives of tour agents, tour guides’ associations at local level, community representatives and private and public higher education institutions. The in-depth interviews also covered the hotel owners, managers, and representatives of the micro-enterprises. Key informant interviews were made with the officials in the respective Offices and Bureaus of Culture and Tourism in the National Regional States of Oromia and Southern Nations Nationalities Peoples Regions. The total numbers of in-depth interviews were 12 [8 males and 4 females] while the key-informants interviews were carried out with 8 experts, out of which there was only a single women.

In addition, field observations were deployed and used as a method to triangulate data collected through in-depth interviews and key informant interviews. In juxtaposition with the primary data sets generated through qualitative fieldwork techniques, the paper also relied on the review of existing documents and theories. Thematic analysis was the main method used to carry out the analysis of the primary data.

  1. Description of the Tourist Route

The Bishoftu – Modjo - Hawassa tourist route (Figure 1) covers the natural and cultural attractions in the Lake Regions, Hot Springs, and National Park.

Figure 1:  Tourist spots in tourism 

The route falls in the administrative boundaries of Oromia National Regional State and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples National Regional State. While Lake Babogaya, Lake Langano are tourism attraction sites in Oromia, Wondo-Genet and Hawassa belong to Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Regional State (SNNPR). There are ample natural and cultural tourism attractions in the two national regional administrative states in the environs of the aforementioned tourist sites.

There have been a number of tourism organizations and stakeholders in each of the respective tourism sites on the route.  These include hotels, lodges, resorts, tour operators, tour guides and enterprises.

  1. Theoretical Reviews on Stakeholders Approach 

Conceptually, definitions given to stakeholders vary across disciplines. Freeman (1984) was the one who introduced the concept of stakeholders in management and organizational context as any individual or group who can affect the firm's performance or who is affected by the achievement of the organization's objectives. Moreover, Clarkson (1995) marked stakeholders as entities which become either enthusiastically or reluctantly bare to any doings of the organization which poses a risk to them in some or other way.

Authors such as Macbeth et.al (2002) forwarded their apprehensions of tourism stakeholders basing their explanations on the categories identified by United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as tourism stakeholders. In their opinion, stakeholders in tourism involve tourism professionals, public authorities, as well as the press and media. In addition, interest groups and individuals and in particular local residents and indigenous groups, also need proper recognition as stakeholders in their own right. Per the contentions of these authors, effective stakeholders’ engagement, therefore, reduces potential conflicts and unwise exploitation of tourism resources as well. Moreover specifically, Swarbrooke(2001) categorized stakeholders in tourism into five main categories: governments, tourists, host communities, tourism business and other sectors. All of them are entitled with different responsibilities and functions.

Stakeholder theory has been widely used in tourism as stakeholders’ interdependency and their ability affect the development of the tourism destination (Jamal and Getz, 1995). Robson and Robson (1996) further stated that one of the key principles of stakeholder theory is that an organization is granted license to operate by virtue of its social contract with other stakeholders.  Freeman (1984) also viewed stakeholder theory as any given organization seeks to have a full appreciation of all the persons or groups who have interests in planning, processing, delivery and/or outcomes of the tourism product or service.

The tourism organizations are not able to operate in isolation from one another and the theory emphasizes over the values of coordination among actors. Collaboration of stakeholders in tourism industry appears indispensable forensuring the sustainable development of Tourism. The tourism stakeholders in the study route such as the government institutions (Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Regional tourism bureaus and offices, Ethiopian tourism organization and government educational institutions), private sectors and local level associations need to work together per the claims of stakeholders approach.

Alike the stakeholders approach, tourism systems theoryconsiders the presence of several interrelated tourism parts to operate together to achieve common goals. In essence, the tourism stakeholders themselves constitute one of the major elements in tourism systems (Ahmad et. al,2012).Therefore, tourism itself conceived as a system in order to describe the interrelationships between the various sectors that enable leisure travel to and from a destination (Hall, 2008).

To digest, the forgone discussions hint on the fact that tourism stakeholders need to stand in systemic model to undertake their operations while delivering tourism products and services. Each of the stakeholders is perceived as parts of the system counts towards the healthy and homeostatic operation of the tourism actors in Central Rift Valley Destinations of Ethiopia (Tesfaye 2015).  

  1. Tourism development policy of Ethiopia on stakeholders operation 

Decades have elapsed since tourism received an ideological, political and policy concerns due to its socio-cultural, economic and environmental impacts at various scales throughout countries in the globe (Hall, 2008). In a nutshell, it was noted that government ideologies shape the values and principles endorsed in developmentpolicies including tourism development policies, which in turn influence the circumstances pertaining to tourism activities on the ground. This would go into the extent of influencing the operations of tourism stakeholders.

Authors such as Mitchell and Coles (2009: 67) outlined the strategic pillars in the implementation of Ethiopian Tourism Development Policy among which coordination of the activities of stakeholders in the sector was mentioned as a key factor. Indeed,the Ethiopian Tourism Development Policy (MoCT, 2009: 60-61)extensively underscores the imperativeness of coordination among tourism stakeholders as follows:

As is known, the main actors in tourism development are government bodies at different levels, the private sector, civil societies directly related to the tourism sector, local communities and the general public as well as visitors. It is essential to coordinate the development activities of these entities, eliminate redundant costs and unnecessary use of resources in order that their efforts can bring enhanced results.

However, numerous factors obstruct the full-scale realization and the visions to create robust coordination among chief actors. Poor institutional functioning and limited structural operations have already caused noticeable bottlenecks. Moreover, loose integrations of the rhetoric with the practice, poor availability of financial resources and limited institutional coordination are still crucial factors that foiled the full-scale realization of the tourism development policy in Ethiopia (Tesfaye, 2015).

  1. Major findings on the operation of tourism stakeholders in Central Rift Valley Tourist Destinations in Central Ethiopia

As well known,there are two major categories of tourist stakeholders receive due attention: (a) government driven, and (b) privately operating entities,each of them are described below.

  1. Tourism stakeholders under government structures

The government structures, start from the federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Structural linkages go down to local level associations. These lines of structures have made sizeable contributions in the implementations of strategies, legal frameworks and use of tourism resources.

  1. Bureaus and/or Offices of Culture and Tourism

Institutionally, the federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MoCT) represented the highest authoritative body that maneuvered tourism development throughout the country.  Proclamation No. 471/2005, article 30 provided the legal ground for the establishment of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism with the powers and duties to  promote, create  and monitor tourism institutions.

The Regional Bureaus of Culture and Tourism, which fall under the MoCT, and the respective Zone Offices of Culture and Tourism discharge their roles in accordance with mandates appropriated to them. At the top, MoCT engages in the “promotion, marketing, standardization, licensing, and management of…resources such as national parks and wildlife. Regional and zonal structures simply decentralize the national permit to localities where there are tourism attractions,” (Mitchell and Coles 2009: 66).

The regional Bureaus of Culture and Tourism facilitates the conservation and development of their respective regional cultural, historical and natural diversities. For example, in SNNPR the Regional Culture and Tourism Bureau, among others, have the duties and responsibilities to (i) protect regional cultural and tourism heritages; (ii) expand the Region’s tourism industry; and (iii) establish the Regional Council of Tourism.

Practicable outputs are more pronounced at the lower district or city level Offices of Culture and Tourism. The district level Offices of Culture and Tourism provide due attention to the promotion of tourism destination, preservation of heritages, coordination among stakeholders and establishment of local level tourism units. In the case of Bishoftu, the lower level offices of culture and tourism have shown their strengths to attain the explicit objectives highlighted above.

There are issues of concern that seek attention in the structural arrangements of tourism entities. For instance, structures of culture and tourism that operate at sub-city level are non-existent in the case of Hawassa or even Kebele level in other sites on the route and elsewhere in the country[3]. The absence of such structures at the Kebele level obstructed the penetration of tourism into the daily lives and activities of the locals. The stimulation of committee, local tour guide associations, and the micro-enterprises are mechanisms devised by the government to reach the community at the grassroots level. Succinct portrait shall be given to the most remarkable ones in the sub-sections that emerge below: 

  1. Tourism Council: Experiences from Bishoftu

The implementation of the council comes as part of the first cycle of the five-year growth and transformation plan of the region. The Tourism Council envisages to attain, as endorsed in its Manual (2002:12), are: (a) giving  advisory and technical support to practitioners; (b) making Bishoftu amongst the top tourist destinations in East Africa; and (c) stimulate genuine participation of the community and stakeholders in the practice of tourism. Moreover, the manual envisages to (d) promote tourism resources at local levels; (e) ensure the fair distribution of benefits to local communities; and (e) capitalize on the economic role of tourism in the growth and transformation period.

Hierarchically, the general assembly of the council is the highest authoritative and decision-making organ. The members are individuals drawn from the private sector, heads of government offices, community elders, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and religious institutions, with a total of 150 members. Membership in the Council required relevant experiences in tourism related matters or demonstrable interest on it. The Council discharges its activities through three sub-committees: (i) tourism promotion and marketing committee; (ii) heritage preservation and security promotion committee; and (iii) tourism infrastructure development committee. The establishment of the Council strengthened the activities of other less functional stakeholders like hotel associations, associations of local tour guides and services provided by micro-enterprises in the lake areas (Tourism Council Manual of Bishoftu City, 2002:16).

  1. Heritage Clubs: Practices from Wondo-Genet

In recent years, the Office of Culture and Tourism in Wondo-Genet has established heritage clubs in the wider community and the schools in the district with the aims to advance domestic tourism. The actions to stimulate domestic tourism through heritage clubs are the decision taken by the Tourism Council of the Region. Most of the clubs advocate the slogan “know your country; protect your heritages and appropriate use of resources for local development.” Of course, Getachew (1999) traced the commencement and operation of heritage clubs during the Derg regime in Ethiopia although much has not been done on this line since then.

Objective wise, the establishment ofheritage clubs, as depicted  in the Manual (2005: 7), in schools and government offices were to (1) encourage domestic tourism through small savings; (2) enhance locals understandings on the natural, cultural and historical tourism resource;  and (3) share the knowledge and experiences to preserve tourism resources. Furthermore, heritage clubs aims (4) developing and instigating the custom of mutual understanding and interpersonal relationships; as well as (5) creating a conscious community much concerned about its tourism resources and developments. Comparable to the Tourism Council in Bishoftu, the general assembly in Wondo-Genet remained the most powerful decision making authority in the operation of the clubs. Two sub-committees function in running the clubs, which are (i) the management committee, and (ii) auditing committee.

Heritage clubs also promote awareness creation programs about tourism programs to the community. Some clubs have organized trainings and orientation programs to the community members on the themes of tourism code of conduct. Strategically, the operation of the clubs in schools has created the opportunities to integrate trainings and awareness with the school curricula. Because of the efforts of the clubs, students have begun to internalize the tourism resources in their locality and its relevance to community development.

So far, about six heritage clubs have gone functional in selected schools[4]. Only a single heritage club has become fully functional in the government office i.e. the heritage club of the employees in Wondo-Genet District Office of Culture and Tourism. The formations of other heritage clubs are under progress in government offices in Wondo-Genet. As a whole, the inspiration to establish heritage clubs in some government offices, non-government organizations, with private actors and the wider community has put into effect since 2003 Ethiopian Calendar. The initiatives set underway through heritage clubs in Wondo-Genet.also facilitate to reverse the poor domestic practices reported on the route.  

  1. Local Tour Guide Associations and Other Micro-Enterprises

Local tour guide associations are entities specializing in tourism service delivery at lower grassroots levels, under the auspices of district or respective city level administrations.

  1. Micro-Enterprises providing tourism services and goods

The Ethiopian Tourism Development Policy (MoCT, 2009) recognized the importance of enterprises in the delivery of tourism services and products. “Tourism makes ... contributions by expanding micro, small-scale and medium-scale enterprises for the production of goods and services, creating ... employment opportunities...” (MoCT, 2009:41). Thus, the policy helps to back up the operation of associations while the expansions of the associations contribute towards the expansion in the delivery of services and goods in the sector.

The interviews held with relevant officials in Hawassa and Bishoftu demonstrated that several MSEs have been under stages of establishment. For example, in Hawassa preliminary assessments have been underway to induce the establishment of 25 new MSEs in the fiscal year 2013/14Gregorian Calendar.

The table below depicts the sample micro-enterprises engaged on the delivery of tourism services and goods on the route.

Table-1: MSEs delivering tourism services and goods in the tourist attraction sites of the route

Tourist site

Micro enterprises operating on tourism and related services

Number  of MSEs

 Service category

members

Relevant Trainings

Received or not

Year of commencement (E.C)

Remark on their current

status

Bishoftu

3

Boating services

Local horse rent

Sale of cultural cloths & products

6

Received induction trainings

2000

Only one association remained  active and transformed to medium level

Langano

6

Sale of cultural handicrafts  and souvenirs

8

Trained on income generation and saving 

2002

Fragmented and functioning below the standard

Wondo-Genet

2

Sale of Citrus

10

Did not receive any  apparent trainings

2004

Under formation

Hawassa-Lake

10

Boating services,

entrainments,

guiding and interpretations

12

Received trainings on  business and saving  

2000

Strong, determined and highly active associations around the lake areas

Source: Field Analysis Major Activities of MSEs in Tourism Sector on the Route

Office of Culture and Tourism provided induction trainings on matters of internal administration, operations and business management in collaboration with other line Offices. The data from the in-depth interview held with the representative of Fiker Hayiq in Hawassa, showed that strict follow-ups by upper organs, on service trainings or demand-driven trainings that strengthen members’ functional capacity and its management were not common. In cases when such trainings are available, only one or two representatives of the respective enterprises attend invariably. Those representatives, who regularly attend meetings, do not share the skills and experiences acquired through training with the remaining members of the enterprises.

Moreover, the linkages of MSEs with local finical institutions, both with the government and non-government banks, were so poor and calls for strategic interventions. Since MSEs that have transformed to medium levels of operation demand relatively huge budgets and capital for investments, they inevitably seek sufficient loans and support. In the absence of operational linkages with banking institutions, the successes and sustainability of these MSEs appear dubious. Their fragmentation risks double many folds.

Besides, the MSEshave engaged in the delivery of tourism activities that in one way or another strengthened the tourism activities around the respective sites. Among others, the MSEs act and rigorously operate on the areas of provisions of guiding and translation services, conservation and cleaning up of natural-ecological environs of the attraction sites, revival and re-making of cultural artifacts, delivery of boating and other entertainment-servicesand promoting the security of the tourist attraction sites. Above and beyond, the remarkable contributions of MSEs are in the areas of creating job opportunities for local youths.

  1. Local Tour Guide Associations

Local tour guide associations promote the cultural, historical and natural tourism resources of the communities on the route. Their establishments contributed to maximize the services rendered to tourists. Their legalization has also reduced the possible conflicts arising among individual guides. The local guide associations operate within the jurisdictions of the local kebele administration, district or operate within the boundaries of demarcated zones or regional states.

So far, two local tour guide associations operate in Bishoftu: (i) Melat and Dawit Tour and Travel Bishoftu, and (ii) Bishoftu Sky Tour and Travel. Nevertheless, both of these local travel organizations operate in fragmented manners. Local Eco-Tourism Guides Associations render multifarious functions in Langano, Wondo-Genet and Hawassa. Lepis Eco-Tourism Local Guide Association operates in Langano while Mosaic Land Eco-Tourism Local Guide Association has recently emerged in Hawassa. Wondo-Genet Eco-Tourism Local Guide Association is popular in Wondo-Genet. Each of the associations has about 10 members, with disproportionate gender mix.

  1. Tourism service establishments operating under the private wing

The hospitality industry has represented among the stakeholders catering services and goods to tourists under the private domain.

  1. Lessons from the Association of Hotels in Bishoftu

The Ethiopian Hotels Association (EHA) is the ultimate governing body of the establishments under the MoCT. The head of the association at Addis Ababa discussed that “the association lacked strong functional structures, capacity and operational grounds in the Regional National States of the country.” Advocacy and networking were the main activities performed so far by the association.

Cognizant of the gaps seen in the operation of Federal Hotels Association at highest level, two associations have emerged in Bishoftu in 2008 G.C. These are the Bishoftu Hotel Owners Association (BHOA) and the Association of Non-Standardized Tourism Service Providing Establishments. Both associations have envisaged to (i) promote Bishoftu as a hospitable tourist destination; (ii) mobilize natural tourism resources to stir local economic developments; and (iii) provide quality and satisfactory services to international and domestic tourists. Moreover, both associations aim at (iv) ensuring the security and safety of tourist attraction sites; (v) expanding tourism amenities in the city; and (vi) promoting professional ethics, networking and the rights of people working in the establishments, as learned from the interviews held with the owner of Babogaya Hotel and the manager of Kuriftu Resort. 

As an integral part of its endeavors, BHOA constructed police offices, donated patrol cars and sponsored forums related to tourism management and development in the city. BHOA also sponsored a trip to benchmark optimal experiences from other African and Asian countries. Community representatives, heads of government offices and representatives of the private sectors took part in the trip and then customized the lessons acquired from the countries visited into the local contexts. Ecological conservation surrounding the shores of the lakes in Bishoftu was an elementcaptured and implemented as lessons in the local context. Although analogous associations have begun to operate in Hawassa, they could not become effective and active alike those in Bishoftu.

  1. Collaboration and Competitive Practices among Tourism Stakeholders

Both collaboration and competition epitomize the activities of tourism institutions on the route.

  1. Collaborative endeavors among tourism stakeholders

Collaboration entails the presence of working and harmonious arrangements among the tourism institutions. Undermining this essence of collaboration, the informants consulted through various methods, have attested the existence of poor coordination, fragmentation and weak operational networks among the tourism stakeholders. For example, there were only few collaborative efforts between the Higher education institutions and tourism sector mostly through apprentice and short-term placements of students. An informant in Hawassa, Manager of Haile Resort, discussed the limited spheres of their collaborations with Hawassa University as follows:

We invite the experts from the Tourism and Hotel Management department of Hawassa University whenever there are on job trainings for our staffs. Additionally, on the moments of big events and occasions that demand huge task force, our Resort also invites the students from Tourism and Hotel Management department. Under rare cases, top-ranking students get the opportunity to secure jobs in the local tourism institutions including our resort.

This shows that formally institutionalized and professional operational platforms were non-existent or poorly functioning among the diverse tourism institutions on the route. Pender and Sharpley (2005:9) connected the notion of collaboration with integration and “integration refers to formal linking arrangements between organizations … both across the chain of distribution (horizontal integration) and down the chain of distribution (vertical integration).” When such formal elements of integration do not provide effective arrangements, disintegration and poor linkages emerge as a dominant marker of the operation of tourism institutions in the respective tourism attraction sites.

Recent practices and advancements demonstrate the presence of emerging operational links among tourism institutions like micro-enterprises, local tour guide associations, other establishments and the respective government Offices of Culture and Tourism at the lower levels.

There are also elements of operational networks between the private establishments and the Offices of Culture and Tourism. As the office has the mandate to control and supervise the activities of the former, good operational linkage is normally expected. Horizontally, limited operational networks have existed among the micro-enterprises themselves, except occasional meetings or limited experience-sharing circumstances. 

Equally, the level of collaborative connections prevailing among the local tour guide associations was so negligible. The absence of organized horizontal channels of networks among the associations themselves has deteriorated the mutual operations expected among the lower level associations. Reflecting on the prevalence of such disorganized manners of operation among tourism institutions elsewhere, Scott et.al. (2008:3) generally characterized tourism as “… a networked industry where loose clusters of organizations within a destination-as well as networks of cooperative and competitive organizations linking destinations-cooperate and compete in dynamic evolution.” 

In essence, the establishment of more functional networks and coordination platforms were not optional tradeoffs. Rather it appears binding to have some level of alliance among the institutions on the route. The triangular model (Figure 2) hints on the way to transform the coordination of actors involved in the processes of interaction and exchange on the route.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure-2 A triangular model of transforming coordination among stakeholders on the route

The above model hints on how best to reverse the prevailing poor networks among the tourism institutions on the route.The model espouses on the importance of coordination at three levels: (i) policy makers; (ii) the community at the destinations areas; and (iii) the private sector. The Ethiopian Tourism Development Policy boldly capitalized on the significancesof connecting all these three components.

The necessities for collaborative actions remain unquestionable among the tourism stakeholders on the route. Without instituting stronger collaboration, the operation of tourism phenomena appears dubious. The prevalence of weaker coordination among the institutions poses a threat to the sustainable use of tourism resources which also undermines the activities of evolving tourism institutions.

  1. Competition among the tourism stakeholders

The empirical evidences in the respective tourist attraction sites of Central Rift Valley Areas of Ethiopia have demonstrated the prevalence of higher degrees of competitions over the extraction of tourism resources among diverse actors and institutions. 

  1. Encounters of the national tour operators with the local tour guide associations

The national level tour operators and agents frequently collide with both the local tour guide associations and to a minor extent, with the lower level Offices of Culture and Tourism. Tour operators and agents were supposed to contact the tourism offices at lower levels and travel or work with local tour guides. Nevertheless, the operators often breach this alleged rule and just travel by accompanying tourists in the locals’ settings. The ultimate outcome has been severe conflicts that distort the image of the locality and that of the community, which also paved grounds for harassments that affect tourists in many ways.   

  1. Disagreements of local tour guide associations with micro-enterprises

Contradictions have been erupting between the local level tour guides associations and the micro-enterprises. The confrontations mostly emanate in relation to the plot of land apportioned for a working space by the city administration. In Hawassa, for example, the competition for a parcel of land on the lake shores was a major cause for major conflicts.

Competitions occur also on the domains of specialization, particularly with regard to guiding and interpretation services. Recent working regulations subscribe the formal-legal rights of guiding services to the local tour guide associations. Still few experienced members of the micro-enterprises have continued to deliver guiding services violating the existing regulations. These acts have paved the ground for conflicts and unnecessary competitions. 

  1.  Disagreements among local tour guide associations themselves

In his observation Kauffmann (2008:55) commented on the situation that prevailed in the Central Rift Valley (CRV) area as follows, “in the contemporary tourism industry, illegal practices of guides and tour operators are estimated to be thirty percent of the existing competitions.” Similar engagements still prevail in Wondo-Genet, where two rival associations compete for recognition and access to tourism resource. Mohammed (2007: 23) also shared his observation on “…the race among…many boys to give the service creates stress on the part of the visitor and sometimes these guides … ask for higher payment than is appropriate.”

Although the district Office of Culture and Tourism in Wondo-Genet officially certified a single Eco-Tourism Local Tour Guide Association, informally organized associations and youths are competing with the formally established ones. The guideline enacted by the government gives recognition for a single association to provide guiding service in a tourist attraction site. Although minor in intensity, similar violations have been found both in Bishoftu and in Hawassa inviting for conflicts.

  1. Disagreements of locals and tourism organizations

A more critical issue of conflicts revolves around the rough relations between the community members and the tourism institutions on the route. Despite the degree of incidence, the community members hold varying feelings towards the tourism establishments. The community members have challenged the operation of hotel and other tourism investments in the tourist sites. At Babogya-Bishoftu, the local tour guide and boat rider explained that:

The community members used to perceive the lake [Babogaya] as a place to perform ancestral worships and sacrifice animals for religious and cultural practices. The establishment of the hotels and resorts undermined these practices. As a result, few community members still object to the investments in the areas. Even as of today and beyond the cultural values of the lakes, community members in Bishoftu weighed the direct benefits of investments with the opportunity costs of being dislocated from their land, residential quarters and water sources for their livestock.

Parallel disagreements prevailed in Langano between the community and the investors. Investors promised the local community members to construct the social service infrastructures like schools, health posts, and water schemes. The promise also included the creation of employment opportunities for local youth and adults. However, the investors failed to keep most of their promises.  As a result, the local community members deliberately initiated conflicts with the hotel owners and other investors in the area.

  1.  Bottlenecks to the operation of tourism stakeholders on the route

Numerous factors meshed to halt the normal operation of tourism institutions on the route. Among others, the points highlighted below received due attentions.

  1. Poor enforcement and observance on the existing rules and regulations

The poor enforcement of regulations and rules were common across the operations of Tourism Council, local guide associations and hotel associations, micro-enterprises and other tourism sub-establishments on the route. The government organs lacked the capacity to follow up and supervise the proper implementation of the regulations for tourism resource exploitation, preservations and promotions. Hence, the limited application of the regulations and rules were crucial threats to tourism institutions.

  1. Constraints of resources: material, technical and human

The local tour guide associations, micro-enterprises and the committee at lower levels encountered material and financial constraints. The establishments and the government line offices faced dearth of technically experienced work force. The combined effects of material, technical, financial and human constraints deterred the operations of tourism institutions on the study route. 

  1. Poor advocacy and promotional strategies

Poor promotional strategies and limited advocacy efforts characterize the tourism resource on the respective tourist attraction areas. Tourist information centers at the respective tourist attraction areas were absent. The extensive usage of technologies and Medias to advocate the existing tourism resources were less practiced. So far, symposiums, brochures, forums, exhibitions, bazaars, cultural events and conferences, were the main mechanisms used for promotions. The efforts exerted so far appear inadequate to catch the attentions of diverse sectors and nations. As a result, innovative strategies are required to promote the tourism resource in improving the images of the settings. 

  1.  Lower Levels of Community Awareness

Mulugeta (2012) stressed the crucial role of interactive awareness creation programs and community tailored trainings to eliminate the challenges that frequently encounter the institutions. Interactive awareness creation plays immense roles in making meaningful contributions towards local, regional and national developments. The local community signified a key stakeholder in tourism interaction. Yet, the communities were out of the contexts. As usually acclaimed, development that fails to recognize the community stalls its success. 

However, the awareness created so far in the community about tourism resource and its impact on the local and the national economy remained quite insignificant. Community benefits, participations and awareness should be part of the composite activities directed towards the sustainable development of the sector. Overall, the limited awareness among the community members on tourism resource setback and undermines the effective operation of tourism institutions on the study route.

  1. Poor data handling and information storage, exchange an transfer practices

Absence of systemic ways to record, compile and report tourism related data and statistics was another predicament that deterred the operation and growth of the tourism establishments. The paucities and defects associated with data were region wide. The sources of tourism statistics were contingent on the incomplete reports of hotels, tour operators, tourism sites, and government offices.

Under reporting or disguising the actual income figures were common problems across the sites. The private owners correlate the reporting of the numbers of tourists with the government tax payment-administration systems. Hence, hotels, resorts and other organizations deliberately underreport the numbers of tourists in fear of taxes.

The establishments often lacked the system of recording and as a result failed to assemble genuine tourist-statistics. Moreover, few of the hotels around Langano, Wondo-Genet and Hawassa are structurally accountable to the federal level bureaus. This created accountability problems and duplication of data under diverse contexts. Taken as a whole, the institutions were not in a position to understand the implications of data for planning, and future development of the sector.

  1. Conclusion and Way Forward

As a result of the dynamics evolving in tourism, the stakeholders approach has become an inevitable strategy of managing and developing tourism resources across various destinations in Ethiopia. The realities observed in the Central Rift Valley Tourism destinations have not been exceptional to such prevailing realities. However, the empirical practices on the ground undermined the core thesis of stakeholder’s theory.  As a result, the operations of tourism institutions in the Central Rift Valley areas of Ethiopia were found to be loosely connected. The loose connections of stakeholders were further intensified by the competitions over tourism resources among stakeholders.  Within this prevailing framework, a numbers of institutions have been delivering services and goods to tourists on the route.

The tourism institutions show ever-evolving dynamism on the route. These include the government structures and government offshoot associations, community groups and private establishments. Each of these institutions holds the objectives to fulfill the needs of the tourists in a complementary fashion beyond altering the image of the settings. However, poor collaborations, competitions and operational bottlenecks destroyed the image of the overall evolutionary dynamics. Kauffmann (2008:64) contended on the existence of institutional structures starting from the local up to higher level officials. Those structures have often less used for tourism development “due to lack in capacity, organization, partnership, position, power, knowledge, money, understandings etc.”

Strengthening and transforming the operational capacity of stakeholders, creation of coordination platforms and networking call for serious intervention strategies by the government, private actors and the wider community. Such interventionswould empower the community and other stakeholders in tourism, which finally contributes into sustainable development of tourism sector in the country. For the successes each organizations and actors in tourism, cooperation among different stakeholders has to be praised as a mandatory principle.

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[1]Assistant Professor, College of Development Studies, AAU, Tourism Development and Management Program.  Address: tesfayezeleke@gmail.com , Phone: 0973168681

[2]Assistant Professor, College of SocialSciences, AAU Department of Sociology. Address :tayesosa@yahoo.com, Phone: 0911 684760

 

[3]  For instance, in the case of Somali Regional National Sate, and Dire Dewa City Administration, the tourism structures operate only at the regional and administrative tiers, respectively.  Both in Tigray and Gambela National Regional States, tourism structures function only at the zonal level alone (MoCT, 2014).

[4]  According to the view of the key informant from the district Office of Culture and Tourism, the heritage clubs operates and becomes practical in the selected primary, secondary and preparatory schools of the district.