Interview with Dario Morello, CEO of Green Land Tours and Hotels (Ethiopia)
What is your overview of the tourism industry in Ethiopia? What would be your outlook for 2014 and beyond? Is Ethiopia on its way to become one of the top tourism destinations in Africa?
Tourism in Ethiopia has been growing substantially in the past few years. Previously, Ethiopia was not very well-known for its tourism industry but for the past year or so, the private sector and the government have been together promoting Ethiopia on a more international scale, for example by attending different travel or trade fairs abroad. As a result, Ethiopia has become more known and tourists are coming and going back to their countries and giving good reviews of their travel visits. We hope this trend will continue and we are very confident that 2014 will be a good year. We strongly believe Ethiopia will soon become one of the top travel destinations in Africa.
Can you give us a brief history of Green Land Tours and the type of services you provide?
Green Land Tours started 16 years ago and we are a tour operator based in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
Recently we extended the range of our services in Ethiopia as well as in the neighboring countries that we cover. We have many different kinds of tours in Ethiopia, as well as in other destinations in East Africa such as Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, South Sudan and Djibouti. We have our own offices in each place and we have marketing offices in Europe; in Italy and London.
You said you’ve been in business for about 16 years. How has the tourism industry been evolving since the company's inception?
The tourism industry in Ethiopia has been evolving quite well over the past years. I can say we have wintnessed a four or five percent growth each year. There are many tourists coming from Europe and the United States as well as from some Asian countries like Japan. I think the growth is a constant growth which is indeed very good.
Are you looking for any new relationships with tour operators and travel agencies around the world in order to further enlarge your customer base?
Yes, we usually participate in over 15 trade fairs per year on average and we attend these trade fairs primarily in order to establish contacts with tour operators and travel agencies abroad, which will then promote Ethiopia on their brochures or websites. Our work or task is mainly to make contact with travel agents and tour operators abroad.
Can you tell us about your staff and drivers and the experience they have? What are your strongest points in comparison with your competitors?
We started 16 years ago and we are a tour operator based in Addis Ababa. I think one of the main things that has made Green Land grow and develop further is the quality staff we employ and the vehicles we own. Today, we promote every part of Ethiopia, from the historical sites in the north to the people and the cultures in the south.
I think one of the main things that has made Green Land grow and develop further is the quality staff we employ and the vehicles we own. We have a very committed staff, starting from the office people to the guides, drivers and cooks; we have about 400 employees working with us. We employ guides who speak different languages including Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese. They are very committed to taking care of the clients and they are very professional. Moreover, we have a very large fleet of vehicles, ranging from Land Cruisers to buses; we use different kinds of vehicles depending on the area.
Do you have any online marketing presence such as YouTube or social media?
Apart from attending the various international tourism fairs and events, we have our website which is very visible on Google and other search engines; so we are just using our website for the time being.
Does Green Land Tours play any role in terms of social responsibility in the towns and villages it operates in?
Yes, we assist and cooperate on different projects every year, each of them taking place in a different village or town. We are also assisting orphanages and schools, and projects related to elderly. In some villages, like in Turmi, we supply a generator for the lighting of the town and we also promote and help to fund other local initiatives and projects. There are new projects every year while some older are already ongoing for many years.
Geographically speaking, what part of Ethiopia do you market to your customers? What areas or regions do you focus on when promoting destination Ethiopia internationally?
We promote every part of Ethiopia, from the historical sites in the north to the people and the cultures in the south. There’s the Danakil Depression and we are organizing trekking in the Simien Mountains as well as cycling tours, rafting etc. We really have many amazing trips and activities in our offer.
How do you see Green Land Tours moving forward?
We aspire to develop more in Ethiopia and as well as in other destinations in East Africa. We want to increase the number of lodges and vehicles and employ more guides and increase the number of our staff in general. We very much want Green Land Tours to grow in future years to establish itself as the leading tour operator in East Africa.
What would you recommend as the top places to see in Ethiopia, let's say the top three places to see?
There are so many things and places to see however I can mention the most frequently visited places.
Firstly, there are the historical sites in Ethiopia. In the north of the country, there is Lalibela which is a unique place. There are many rock-hewn churches – about 100 churches in the region. There are other places like Gondar which have castles. Then there is Bahirdar, where the Blue Nile's source is located, including the spectacular Blue Nile falls. There is also Axum, which used to be the capital city under the rule of Queen of Sheba. The city's history is more than 2000 years old and, according to a legend, it is the place where the Ark of Covenant was deposited.
Secondly, another big attraction in Ethiopia is the famous Omo Valley, where there are many different ethical groups, so you can learn about many different cultures and traditions; as well the Rift Valley lakes and different National parks located within that region.
The third hotspot is the Danakil Depression which is a depression that is about 117 meters below sea level. There is an active volcano (Ertale) and you can pass the night on the volcano and see the lava; it is very amazing. There is Dallol, the plain of sulfur, which offers very fantastic views.
What would be your final messages to tourists who are considering visiting Ethiopia?
I think the above are the three main areas to visit in Ethiopia but then, as I mentioned, there are so many other activities to do and places to visit. You can plan a tour to the Simien Mountains or go rafting on the Omo River, and so much more.
Ethiopia is not yet very well-known worldwide but it is an amazing destination so I invite everyone to come and visit Ethiopia. "Leave the ordinary; discover the extraordinary;" come and enjoy Ethiopia, as well Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, South Sudan & Djibouti. Green Land Tours will show you the beauties of Ethiopia and East Africa.
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