Is tourist police the answer to tourist safety problem in Ethiopia?
Ethiopian Tourism Organization, a state run organization which used to be a commission during colonel Mengistu Hailemariam government, says that it is planning to establish a tourism police unit.
Deputy director of the organization, Associate Professor Yichalal Miheret, is cited by Fana Broadcasting agency as saying that there have been efforts to establish a tourist police but was not a success due weak commitment from stake holders.
The deputy director, who believes that a concerted protection of the safety of tourists is important to enhance inflow of tourists, says that his organization is working to form a tourist police.
In the report published by Fana Broadcasting today, Ethiopian Tour Operators Association President, Yacob Melaku, refers to the experiences of other countries to emphasize the importance of tourism police to protect the safety of tourists.
Apparently, there has been an effort to set up a tourist police in Gonder, where a magnificent sixteenth century castle attracts significant tourists, but did not bear fruit ; the source did not explain why it was so.
Nuredin Bedri, Tourist office head in Harar region, thinks that tourist police is relevant to control petty crimes perpetrated on tourists. Lemma Mesele, head of Southern region tourism office, seem to share the view.
From the experiences of other countries, tourist police have special training to respond to the needs of visitors and travelers including by giving directions apart from protecting their safety. Language could be a barrier for such police unit to carry out their duties effectively.
The tourism sector is one of the major foreign currency revenue source for Ethiopia but the sector has recently suffered due to the political crisis in the country as more and more tourist source countries have issued travel advisory in light of the ongoing anti-government protest across the country including tourist attraction regions in the country.
In December of 2017, a German tourist was killed by rebel forces in the volcano region of Ethiopia.
While it is questionable if the problem in relation to dwindling number of tourists is something that could be addressed through a tourist police, there are concerns among Ethiopians that the sector is turning the country into a destination for sex tourism. The problem has even affected institutions of higher learning in Ethiopia. And any Ethiopians believe that the sector need to be regulated to protect social norms from further damage.
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