The image of Djibouti continued to improve as potential investors and business tourism to Djibouti registered further strong growth in 2013. The main international source markets were the European countries France and the UK, although regional tourism from neighbouring countries, including Sudan, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates and Eritrea accounted for as much as 40% of arrivals, with countries such as China, Russia and the U.S gaining popularity as trading links with these countries became more important.
The Kempinski and Sheraton hotels remained the key players in travel accommodation, attracting rather high-income tourists (both leisure and business), although demand for cheaper travel accommodation is an opportunity for development of this category in Djibouti. The local population, however, to a large extent (up to 42-45%, with up to 70% of unemployment among those under 30 years old) lived in poverty and could not afford high-class accommodation. Cheaper hotels could represent an opportunity for these demographics to become mobile and find a job.
Djibouti possesses many tourist attractions and sites of natural beauty, although the government faces enormous challenges in realising the potential of these assets. For example, more air routes are required, as these would play a vital role in boosting both business and leisure arrivals. Many companies operated from Djibouti Airport, including Air France, Flydubai, Turkish Airlines, Kenyan Airways and Qatar Airways. Nevertheless, in 2013 there was still a shortage of flights to Djibouti.
More connections to neighbouring countries (in particular Ethiopia and Sudan) helped the country to profit from its Doraleh port and Djibouti free trade zone area. However, at the same time, it imposed on local players the presence of external partners, which were considered to exploit more opportunities. Thus, the government made a particular effort to attract European tourists in February 2013 and organised an educational tour for journalists in collaboration with the Sheraton hotel and Turkish Airlines.
In April 2014, the Djiboutian government launched a new loan programme in order to support the development of ecotourism by entrepreneurs through offering financial support aimed at boosting the tourism industry and utilising environmentally sustainable solutions. The programme will help operators of traditional hut complexes to build their properties as eco-bungalows using biodegradable materials and solar energy, and increase accommodation capacity in areas with high tourism potential. With this strategy the government aims to generate 30,000 direct jobs, compared with the current level of 4,500, and contribute more than 10% to the country's gross domestic product (GDP), as compared to the 2% registered at the end of the review period.
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