Ethiopia: How Hotels Earn Their Stars

A new hotel opens in Ethiopia every two weeks, experts claim. This might sound like tourism development galloping along, but considering the rising number of tourists visiting the country, there is still a huge gap between supply and demand. According to a World Bank (WB) estimate, Ethiopia attracted nearly 700,000 visitors in 2013.

In light of this emerging dynamic and in the thrust to modernize the country's hospitality industry, hotels in the capital city have recently been star rated.

Last week, Marriott Executive Apartments, Addis Ababa, owned by Sunshine Business Plc, was certified as the fifth five star hotel in a city dubbed the political and diplomatic capital of the African continent. Sunshine's 45.5 million dollar property will undoubtedly contribute to the city's drive to become a major tourist destination with a rising number of highly rated facilities to cater for and host tourists visiting the country for business, pleasure or both.

Marriott Executive Apartments' star rating comes at a time when the government programme of hotel star grading, funded by the World Bank, recently reached a milestone with hotels in Addis Ababa receiving grading certificates for the first time in the country's history of hospitality services.

Hotel grading is one aspect of WB's Sustainable Tourism Development project being implemented with a 39.5 million dollar budget. The project, which has been ongoing in Ethiopia since 2009, is expected to be completed in December 2015. It aims to contribute "to the enhancement of the quality and variety of tourism products and services in targeted destinations so as to increase the volume of tourism, foreign exchange earnings and jobs," the Bank's website reads. As such, the project has four components pertaining to destination development, market development, institutional development and capacity building, and implementation support and results monitoring.

The process was part of this wider approach to promote and nurture the tourism sector in Ethiopia. The process, which took more than six months for assessment and reporting, cost 550,000 dollars, Gezahegn Abate, international & public relations directorate director at the Ministry of Culture & Tourism (MoCT) told Fortune.

The grading was a very comprehensive exercise, involving evaluation of 375 hotels in the country. Of the 95 hotels in Addis that were eligible for grading, 68 of them were awarded stars, explained, James MacGregor the Canadian head of the six-member assessment team which brought its expertise to the process. Other members of the team of experts from the UN World Tourism Organization (WTO) were, South African, Torrey Anderson; and four Irish experts, including Claire Gantry. The team is are said to have a combined experience of assessing more than eight thousand properties worldwide