Ethiopia's National Tourism Brand: From 13 Months of Sunshine to Land of Origins

A new national tourism brand was officially launched this week in Addis Ababa heralding a distilled  narrative  and story of Ethiopia -- "Ethiopia: Land of Origins" -- to capture the attention of the international audience on the world stage. This launch of the new brand, pointing a break from Ethiopia's previous tourism imagery -- "Ethiopia--Land of 13 Months of Sunshine" -- represents the fact that public diplomacy in its broadest sense is emerging to occupy a greater niche in the country's diplomatic sphere with a view to harness the full spectrum of Ethiopia's aesthetic, civilizational, historic, spiritual, representational, reputational, cultural, institutional, and artistic capital in the context of globalization. Branding in particular emerging as a new technique of statecraft sends a new signal that it will create a fresh story and narrative about Ethiopia in the international stage.

The launch of this new brand came at the 3rd General Assembly of the Ethiopian Tourism Transformation Council. Premier Hailemariam Dessalegn who was on the attendance announced the official launch of the new national tourism brand. According to the Ethiopian Tourism Organization (ETO), the new brand; ‘Ethiopia: Land of Origins' is based on Ethiopia's ‘Spirit of Originality'. On the occasion the ETO noted its confidence that the new brand would position Ethiopia by positively differentiating it from competitors in a way that authentically resonates across stakeholders. It was also noted that Ethiopian Tourism Organization developed the new brand by conducting extensive research in consultation with Ethiopian stakeholders, tour operators and potential tourists in source markets. The national tourism brand contains, according to the organization, the summary promise of "Ethiopia invites you on an adventure in which you will discover the origin of so much: history that is a mysterious mix of myth, legend and fact; culture that is vibrant, creative, alive and shared; and a landscape that is warm, dramatic, primal and teeming with life".  

The ten experiences stipulated in the new brand by the ETO fully captures the essence of Ethiopia as a land of origins. These include:  the hominoid skeleton of  ‘Lucy';  the mystical churches of Lalibela, hand-hewn from rock to create the Jerusalem of Africa;  the biblical Ark of the Covenant kept in Aksum; the castles of Gondar; the astonishing mix of ethnic groups in Southern Ethiopia; the colourful Harar, the old walled city of a hundred mosques, and the fourth most holy site in Islam; the Simien Mountains, the Roof of Africa; and endless vistas in Gheralta to experience the spirituality of centuries old churches dotted among steep pink cliffs, according to the ETO.

Ethiopia's new definition in the sphere of tourism answers who the public diplomats are recognizing the urgency of public engagement on the basis of knowledge and innovative ideas. That means Ethiopia's brand sets the table for the various sections of society to involve in the management of Ethiopia's international relations with their knowledge, creativity and ideas based on a common language, shared vision and purpose. Bringing more people including business persons, artists, think tanks, among others, in the diplomatic sphere will nurture and maximize Ethiopia's reputational capital; project its image; and  advocate its policies and values on the world stage. This acknowledges the trends of the times including the civilian surge in international policy development and implementation. The new brand being a shared platform demands the creation of shared awareness to develop and convert the shared national resources of branding in particular and public diplomacy in general into desired outcomes. 

Crafting a new national brand limited to one element of branding is not enough since the practice and theory of branding encompasses various aspects ranging from tourism, exports, and policies to commerce, culture, people, history and heritage. A 21st public diplomacy approach towards this new brand initiative is needed to comprehensively develop and apply the country's  soft power resources with the objective of providing security, property and identity to the contemporary Ethiopia. The public diplomacy approach emphasizing collaboration, cooperation, and partnership has become a critical dimension of  statecraft trekking the interwoven landscape of the soul of the nation including the cultural and civilizational identity; soft power as well as creative economy.

Put in other words, public diplomacy touches the roots of the country's national policy ranging from social and political to economic arts of  statecraft. A deep understanding of the role of the magic effect of public diplomacy is supportive of the country's brand beyond the realm of tourism. It becomes a framework for a holistic and shared response to a common problem facing the nation. Placing public diplomacy high on the agenda of any branding strategy helps the country succinctly exhibit the country's legitimacy, build lasting relationships with partners, and build networks. This will help again Ethiopia become a good convener, campaigner, director, and broker for preferred solutions to the vexing global developmental and security problems facing humanity.