When Ethiopia opened its doors to the National Tour Association during a product development trip last month, it opened the eyes of NTA tour operators.
“Ethiopia is a country like no other,” said Tim Ambrose, sales director for Washington, D.C.-based Academic Travel Abroad, who joined other tour operators and travel journalists on the trip. “Its many unique religious, cultural and natural assets provide a genuine, unfiltered experience. It’s real.”
The product development trip, conducted by NTA and the Ethiopian Tourism Organization, with assistance from the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C., provided tour operators with a comprehensive overview of the east African country’s tourism product and its potential for tour business. The 10-day program featured stops at national parks, ancient castles and places of worship. It also included a steady stream of interactions with villagers, shopkeepers and craftspeople.
“While I was fortunate to see some incredible sites, my most profound memory of Ethiopia is of the people,” Ambrose said. “They are friendly, welcoming and gracious, and everywhere we went we were greeted with genuine warmth.”
NTA President Pam Inman is pleased by the success of the PDT, both for the participants and the host country. “Our tour operators returned home inspired, and they plan to offer new Ethiopian tours to North American travelers,” Inman said. “Ethiopia’s security and stability are conducive for the tourism market, and the diversity of experiences makes it an incredible destination.”
The tour operators and journalists visited significant religious and cultural sites, delved into Ethiopia’s natural beauty and met with local experts who help them develop niche-focused tour product, including active/adventure, historical/cultural and faith-based travel.
NTA’s Ethiopia PDT is the latest in a series of trips organized by the association to educate its tour operator members about options for packaging global travel. In recent years NTA has led trips to Scotland, Morocco, Germany/Czech Republic and the Holy Land (Jordan and Israel). These projects are part of NTA’s mission, according to Inman.
“We always want to look ahead-and look around-to help our members create innovative, captivating itineraries for their clients,” Inman said. “Given NTA’s 63-year history and global membership in 44 countries, we constantly look at the big picture.”
NTA members from its 700 tour companies will soon have a chance to meet with hundreds of other members representing destinations, hotels, attractions and other tour suppliers at Travel Exchange, the association’s annual convention. The event takes place Jan. 18-22 in New Orleans.