Supporting community development and biodiversity conservation in Ethiopia through sustainable tourism development

  • Client: USAID-Ethiopia
  • Partners: Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance, Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), TESFA Community Based Tourism, Ecotourism Association of Ethiopia, SNV, Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society
  • Project Duration: July 2008 – July 2013

Project Description 

Ethiopia is a nation with a wealth of tourism potential because of its diversity of attractions; however, a negative international image combined with limited tourism facilities hinders the country’s ability to reap greater economic benefits from tourism. Additionally, environmental degradation of key natural attractions is a problem because of growing populations in surrounding areas, inadequate protected area management, and expansion of grazing areas, illegal logging, and unregulated industry. Together, these issues pose a serious threat to Ethiopia’s sustainable development.

The ESTA is a USAID-funded program established to promote biodiversity conservation and provide communities with alternative livelihoods through the development of sustainable tourism. By working with a variety of local stakeholders (including representatives from the government, private sector, and local community groups), the ESTA will frame the design and planning of sustainable tourism development in these areas for the next five years. This will include a series of activities focused on conservation and ecotourism development, private sector competitiveness, workforce development, and handcraft development, all supported by cross cutting activities that employ various forms of communication and social networking.

Major Activities

  • Created Community Enterprises: Solimar created 7 community tourism enterprises utilizing its tailored training tools, which provides jobs and revenue for the communities in the Central and Southern Rift Valley in Ethiopia.
  • Developing brand and website: Solimar has developed a brand (Roots of Ethiopia) for the various community tourism enterprises and created a website to showcase each community offering and help reverse Ethiopia’s negative international image.
  • Developing marketing and awareness collateral: Solimar and the ESTA develop and publish valuable marketing and educational collateral aimed at increasing awareness of community tourism and incentivizing the travel trade.
  • Managing relationships: utilizing online tools and traditional communication platforms to establish linkages between stakeholders in community tourism and engage the international travel community.
  • Building capacity: conducting training workshops and creating training materials for ESTA personnel to ensure that they can use the tools and activities necessary to implement community tourism in Ethiopia and continue towards the goal of sustainable development.


  • Creation of 7 community enterprises whose profits will help expand their business, but also provide environmental protection and conservation though community initiatives.
  • Development of an investment proposal package for an eco-lodge that led to a $1 million investment that funded the development of the Bale Ecolodge.
  • Creation of a Traveler’s Philanthropy Program to harness tourist participation that contributes to key conservation and development initiatives.
  • Creation of a National Geographic Geotourism MapGuide to promote the natural, cultural, and historical attractions of Ethiopia.
  • Improvement of the current tourism and conservation policy environments.



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“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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