Interview: Osman Abdi Mohamed

What natural and cultural characteristics make Djibouti an attractive place to visit in the region?

OSMAN ABDI MOHAMED: Given Djibouti’s geographical and cultural attributes, tourism is an increasingly important sector for economic development in the country. In addition to being named world capital of tourism and culture by the European Council of Tourism and Trade, Djibouti was also ranked fourth in the Lonely Planet’s “Top 10 places to visit in 2018”.

Our country has considerable potential due to its geographical position, despite covering just 23,200 sq km. It is just a three-hour flight from Dubai and less than an hour’s flight from Addis Ababa, allowing connections to several countries in Europe, North America and Asia. Moreover, Djibouti acts as a hub for maritime traffic thanks to its strategic location and 372km-long coastline. The country is also home to two lakes, Lake Assal and Lake Abbe.

Djibouti’s tourism offerings range from diving to recreational fishing, geological exploration to bird watching, and from trekking to adventures in the country’s nomadic hinterland. Lastly, thanks to Djibouti’s pastoral and nomadic culture, eco-tourism is popular with those looking for a low-key experience.

How have infrastructure projects helped to boost the country’s international connectivity?

OSMAN: In order to facilitate the growth of its tourism sector, Djibouti should invest more heavily in domestic infrastructure, particularly transport links that will facilitate access to key tourism destinations. With the resumption of Air Djibouti passenger flights in 2016, the 2018 inauguration of the new Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway the construction of two new international airports and the modernisation of the current airport, the country has taken important steps to develop its international connectivity. These are all fundamental infrastructure developments that will further boost international tourist arrivals.

What tourism model should Djibouti adopt to ensure sustainable, inclusive growth in the sector?

OSMAN: The strategy for tourism development in Djibouti should be in line with the national development programme, Djibouti Vision 2035. This should be supported by the development of integrated policies, particularly in terms of training, international marketing and tourism promotion. In short, our main goal is to use the tourism sector to foster inclusive growth, specifically through job creation for the local population. We hope to link several tourist hubs – both on the coast and inland – through strategically placed corridors. For instance, a cultural tourism corridor will connect Djibouti City to archaeological sites and rock paintings, while a second ecological tourism corridor will connect the Goubet coastline to Lake Assal and the Assamo region, and a third corridor, focusing on green tourism and mangroves, will link Tadjourah to Obock along the coastline.

How do you assess the outcomes drawn from the 2018 National Tourism Conference?

OSMAN: The conference overall was a total success. Stakeholders from the private sector, public sector and civil society, as well as development partners and international experts, were invited to chart a new roadmap for the country’s tourism development. Additionally, it helped us agree on a common vision for reform as well as stakeholder participation in different policies and programmes.

As a result of these discussions, delegates endorsed a number of policy measures involving management and tourism regulation, planning, preservation of cultural and environmental heritage, and greater infrastructure development. All parties are committed to participating in a consistent, collaborative manner. We all envisage this will increase and diversify tourism opportunities, boost employment and foster stronger, sustainable economic growth across the country.