"Tourism was on the back burner for a long time," says Solomon Tadesse, CEO of the Ethiopian Tourism Organization (ETO). "The country was going through major changes and the government's priorities were health, education, communication."
Not to mention drought, famine and revolution.
"There were fundamental reasons why tourism infrastructure was not in place." According to Tadesse, the government finally decided in 2013 that tourism could generate jobs, income and wealth just like any other economic sector.
A tourism transformation council was established to provide direction to the industry and the ETO was created to handle marketing, promotion and product development.
The tourism push coincided with a massive upsurge in foreign investment from China, India, Turkey and other nations that boosted GDP to annual growth rates of around 10%. With the Ethiopian economy going like gangbusters, tourism is slowly but surely moving toward the great expectations generated more than half a century ago.