The world’s best tourist destination for 2015?
It’s not Spain or New Zealand, but somewhere far more obscure, according to the European Council on Tourism and Trade
The world’s best tourist destination? It’s not Spain, the US, or even Telegraph Travel readers’ favourite country New Zealand, but Ethiopia, according to the European Council on Tourism and Trade.
The East African country, which suffered a series of famines in the 1980s but can boast some of the continent’s most dramatic landscapes, was praised by the non-profit association of EU tourism organisations for its “excellent preservation of humanity landmarks”.
The country’s highlights include the monolithic rock-hewn churches at Lalibela; the Simien Mountains National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site that is home to a number of endangered species, including Ethiopian wolf and walia ibex; and the otherworldly Danakil Depression, with its colourful sulphur and salt lakes.
Other attractions flagged up during the annual ceremony were Fasil Ghebbi, the residence of the Ethiopian emperors during the 16th and 17th century; Harar Jugol, containing 82 mosques and 102 shrines, and the Konso Cultural Landscape, featuring 55km of stonewalled terraces and fortified settlements.
In its application for the award, the Ethiopian government identified tourism as a key area if it is to tackle poverty. “Ethiopia is the deserving candidate, with a perfect record of promoting social-friendly tourism, and a ecological and poverty reduction strategy based on tourism,” said Senator Ionel Agrigoraoiei from the European Council.
The group clearly enjoys backing an underdog – last year’s winner was Zimbabwe; in 2013 it was Laos.
However, few of the candidates that applied for consideration this year were typical tourist destinations – they included Nigeria, Algeria, Congo DRC, Jordan and Kazakhstan.
Just 20,000 Britons visit Ethiopia annually, but Kuoni, the luxury tour operator, tipped it (alongside The Philippines and La Reunion) for a surge in visitors earlier this year.
Its trips feature Lalibela, the low-key capital Addis Ababa, the towns of Gondar and Bahir Dar, the Bale Mountains National Park and the Simien Mountains National Park.
Parts are off-limits, however. The Foreign Office advises against all travel to within 10km of the borders with Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya and Eritrea, and to parts of the country’s north-eastern and south-eastern regions.