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AWEIS: Somalia’s untapped tourism potential


Somalia was once known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean. Stunning beaches, turquoise blue seas and historic towns full of mystery and charm marked Africa’s longest and most unspoiled coastline.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, this witnessed a growing tourism industry, destroyed by the long years of bloody civil war that followed.

We lost the gains we had made.

Every year on September 13, Somalia celebrates Tourism Day.

This is a special day set aside to promote tourism by marketing our country’s flora and fauna and all the other great things Somalia has to showcase.

For that to happen, we have to continue the current development trajectory. Above all, we have to build upon and firmly anchor the growing peace and stability.

Let me make this clear, despite the huge attractions of this country, there will be no development of our tourism industry – or any other industry – without peace and stability.

This is an essential component and one our government, under the visionary leadership of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, is determined to achieve.

Peace is already bringing an increase. Since 2022, we have had a steady increase in tourists visiting Somalia.

Many of these visitors are from the diaspora – Somalis longing to see their birthplace and home of their parents, grandparents and the cradle of Somali culture.

For those who have little knowledge about Somalia, the country is located at the tip of the Horn of Africa, bordering Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya. Somalia enjoys over 3,000 kilometres of pristine untapped sandy beaches that stride across the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden connecting to the Red Sea.

We are home to the famous land of ‘Punt’ or sweet smell in northeast Somalia where the Pharaohs of Egypt used to visit to collect their supply of frankincense used as a fragrance.

The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism is leading the government’s efforts to revive tourism in Somalia. Through its Tourism Department and in close coordination with the private tourism sector, it organises the Somalia Tourism Day, including this year’s celebration.

UNWTO is an important organisation that supports the growth of tourism and Somalia is set to benefit a lot through marketing of Somali tourism destinations.

To ease travel and cut red tape, Somalia has introduced an online visa application process to make it easy for those wishing to visit for work or pleasure.

Somalia’s growing aviation industry will play a major role in increasing tourism numbers as more airlines enter the competitive sector to connect the capital Mogadishu to the rest of the world.

In December 2017, Somalia fully took over the management of its airspace from the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations organisation that has been in charge of Somalia’s airspace since 1992, a year after the civil war broke out leading to the collapse of the State.

In yet another major milestone in the ever-improving Somali aviation industry, early last year, the Somalia Civil Aviation Authority, issued registration certificates to two Somali airline companies following the registration of Somalia’s aviation call sign 6O (Six Oscar). Previously Somali flights flew using Kenya’s Five Yankee (5Y) call sign.

Today we have both regional and international flights flying into Mogadishu. You can fly Turkish Airways, Qatar Airways, Air Dubai, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Djibouti and Uganda Airways, among a host of other smaller airlines connecting Somalia to the world.

Somalia has more than 300 active travel and tour companies operating across the country. Through their umbrella body, the Somalia Association of Travel and Tourism Agents, these agents play a significant role in helping bring tourists to Somalia.

The main Adde Abdulle International Airport in Mogadishu is also undergoing further improvements to increase its flight capacity to better serve the ever-increasing visitor numbers. Other major airports in Somalia are also being improved.

The hotel and hospitality sector are also improving. Today you can book yourself into an Airbnb apartment in Mogadishu. A variety of new and refurbished hotels, including the first 5-star Hotel Decale, are all ready to host you at pocket-friendly prices.

These are small steps on what is going to be a long road. But foreign tourists do visit Somalia albeit in small numbers. We receive tourists mainly from other African countries, Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia.

As a result, Somali investors have started investing in the tourism sector by putting up resorts and hotels along Mogadishu’s popular Lido beach as well as other Somali coastal cities like Kismayo, Bosasso and Berbera.

Suffice it to say that Somalia is open for business. Welcome to the pearl of the Indian Ocean. Destination Somalia is ready to receive you.