FOOD TOURISM IN ETHIOPIA By Daniel Ademe, Ethiopia’s first Traveling Spoon Food Host

A good friend, Alison Burgh of Acorn Tourism Consulting, introduced me to the Traveling Spoon team. I got to know Alison while working on tourism marketing materials production for Ethiopian Tourism Organization. I also organized a trip for Alison and her husband David to the Danakil Depression whereby they came to my home and had dinner with my family.

Screen Shot 2017-11-20 at 18.56.04Looking at the Traveling Spoon website and the opportunities it offered, both myself and my wife, Tigist, decided to become hosts, so we could meet people from all over the world with different cultural backgrounds. I had a phone call with the Traveling Spoon team and completed the application form online with my family profile. The Traveling Spoon Ambassadors then visited us, took pictures and forwarded them to the Traveling Spoon team with their review that you can find on our profile. We had a wonderful time with them.

With the Traveling Spoon team we set the price for the experiences we could offer, including a local market visit, cooking class, traditional meal and transportation to and from a guests hotel. With the pictures from the ambassadors and information from the application questionnaire the team developed our profile. It really looks great.

For the local market tour, we take you to the spice section, recycling area, where cereals are sold and the vegetable markets. During the market tour we help you engage your five senses: see the settings of the market, smell some spices, taste pepper or chick bean powder, feel the finest cereal called teff (to make Injera) and listen to the locals exchanging. We teach you the ingredients we source from the market before it appears on the plate. The locals at keta market are not used to foreigners and will follow or watch you while you are visiting. However, they are friendly and welcoming.

Once you are at our home, you will be introduced to the family members including my wife Tigist who conducts the cooking class and my three boys Ebba, Moti and Kaku. The boys are home only during weekends and when the school is closed (June, July and August). Then, you cook one dish from scratch with the help from Tigist; as well as clean, roast and grind coffee beans. Moreover, you will also pour Injera – our staple food. Finally, you will enjoy a traditional meal, sharing with the family from one plate.

Our first guests were from China, John and Vida, and their two daughters. I met them at their hotel and took them to Keta market where they learned about the spices, cereals and vegetables. Vida loved the spice market and bought spices to take home. Then, we went back to my home which is only 5-10 minutes’ drive away, and met my family. We shared traditional food together from one plate, mainly vegetables including cabbage, lentils, bean sauce, cheese, green bean with carrots and some beef meat. After the meal, Tigist taught Vida how to cook bean sauce, pour Injera and roast coffee beans. My boys, Ebba and Moti enjoyed talking to the family and registered them as our first Traveling Spoon guests.

Our second guests were Kristina and her family from Sweden who were keen to learn about preparing good coffee. During the market visit I helped them to buy quality coffee, spices and coffee pot.

Both Tigist and my boys are improving their communication skills and gaining confidence by talking to foreigners in English. Personally I enjoy sitting together and talking to people from different backgrounds and expertise and showing them my country. I am sure that some of the relationships will evolve into long term friendships.  

Daniel is an experienced guide and has also set up his own tour operating company and offers specialist tours across Ethiopia:

Acorn is currently working with Traveling Spoon to identify hosts in rural Ireland.


Screen Shot 2017-11-20 at








21 years of Tourism Development – Crusader and Acorn


Back to the future! Kevin Millington, Director of Acorn, set up his first tourism consultancy firm Crusader Consulting Ltd 21 years ago (a forerunner to Acorn Tourism Consulting Ltd which emerged six years later) – and it was the future that launched the firm back in 1996.

Tourism 2020 Vision, commissioned by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), was Crusader’s first contract. Working with Robert Cleverdon Associates, the aim was to predict what tourism would look like in 2020. So before we look at what we’ve been up to over the last 21 years it would only be right to present our credentials by investigating our vision then for tourism in 2020!

Well, we are delighted to report that our forecast of 1.6 billion international tourist arrivals in 2020 looks like being almost spot on! In 2016, the UNWTO reported over 1.2 billion tourist arrivals worldwide, and current growth rates indicate this reaching at least 1.5 billion by 2020. However, our forecast of tourists spending US$ 2 trillion by 2020 looks a little overcooked – current data suggests it will be around US$ 1.6 trillion.

We predicted that the most visited tourist destinations in 2020 would be China, France, and USA, in that order. Today France and USA occupy the top two places, followed by Spain, with China in 4th place, but rapidly climbing. There’s a good chance it will be in the top spot by 2020.

The Tourism 2020 Vision work led us to focus on the future of tourism, and we set up a publication called Tourism Trendspotter on the back of this expertise. Matt ‘n’ Jeff were the two ignorant and politically incorrect tourists that brought to life some of our forecasts. They ended up as space tourists, visiting the Antarctic, taking religious tourism trips, and purchasing holidays on the Internet (yes, back in the late 1990s that was still quite a novel concept!)

Whilst we predicted strong growth in segments such as adventure tourism, cruises, and thematic tourism over the period to 2020, our suggestion that space tourism would be commonplace, albeit not mass-market, is still a little premature!


So having started off trying to predict where we would be today, and I think making a reasonable job of it, what have we been doing in the intervening 21 years?

Well, essentially it has been a grand tour of the globe. We’ve worked in 72 countries in every continent: that is over one third of the world’s countries. There are some areas we’ve been to more than others. Africa is well trodden, and so is the Middle East and, naturally, the United Kingdom. Some destinations that held so much promise during our studies now lie in ruins, most notably Syria, Libya, and Yemen. Small islands have become a speciality. Most of the tiny islands of the South Pacific have been the focus of some of Acorn’s work, including the wonderfully remote Tuvalu, which holds the honour of being the least visited country in the world! Other beautiful and remote destinations we have worked in include Saint Helena in the South Atlantic (five days on a ship) and the Falkland Islands and we’re currently working with 12 Caribbean islands including the Colombian owned Isla de Providencia.

Twenty-one years ago we predicted huge growth in adventure tourism by 2020, and in particular suggested that as the world becomes increasingly explored there will be a trend of tourists travelling to high places, under water, to the ends of the earth, and off the planet itself. The World Tourism Organisation organised a conference around this forecast, and it became known as Mountain High – Ocean Deep – Ends of the Earth – Moon and Space.

Interestingly, that closely reflects our work today. We’re up in the mountains in Lesotho developing high altitude tourism; we are working on an exciting and (at present confidential) underwater project; we are marketing a destination on the edge of the Antarctic – the Falkland Islands; and, well we’ve not made it into space yet, but Matt ‘n’ Jeff are still up there, somewhere!

Kevin Millington, Director, Acorn Tourism Consulting Limited

October 2017


Measuring tourism you can manage!

There’s an old adage that goes: You can’t manage what you can’t measure.

Every destination around the world measures its tourism performance on the number of arrivals and how much these visitors spend. However, as we have seen over the last 30 years, tourism is affected my many external factors ranging from wars, terrorism, and disease, through to the global economy. You can run the perfect marketing campaign but still see numbers go down! So by measuring tourist arrivals it can be argued that destinations are measuring what they can’t (at least completely) manage.

This has led several destinations to start looking at what they can manage, and measuring their progress and success on that. One such measure is TripAdvisor ratings. The rationale is that destinations can have a direct influence on how visitors feel about accommodation, attractions and tours.

We have been working with the Falkland Islands Tourism Board for nearly 10 years tracking their tourism performance. The Falkland Islands has 10 accommodation establishments, 21 attractions, 4 tours operators, and 10 restaurants and bars rated on TripAdvisor. By taking the scores of each one and creating an overall out-of-10 score for these different groups we are able to see how visitors rate the Falkland Islands’ tourism sector. The results are shown below.

Not only does this allow the Falklands to see where they need to improve, but by tracking these ratings it is possible to monitor changes over time.   This is something the Falklands can manage and measure!

measurements you can manage


What is the impact of Airbnb in your destination?

newcastle re bnb blog.jpg

Airbnb’s new Experiences and Places has been filling the news recently – however we should not lose sight of the fact that it continues to expand its influence in the accommodation sector.

A recent report from Morgan Stanley Research indicates that the threat of Airbnb is greatest for the hotel sector. Data in 2015 and 2016 shows a significant increase in the number of travellers who have used Airbnb in the last 12 months. In 2015, only 15% of leisure travellers surveyed had used Airbnb, however this rose to 19% in 2016, and is forecast to grow to 25% in 2017. For business travellers, only 12% had used Airbnb in 2015, but this increased to 18% in 2016, and is forecast to grow to 23% in 2017.

Considering this level of interest in Airbnb by the consumer, it is of no surprise that destinations are increasingly looking at tracking the use of Airbnb in their area. Newcastle Gateshead Initiative (NGI) is the first destination to add Airbnb data to their Acorn T-Stats System, and already some interesting trends and findings are becoming apparent.


airbnb image 1.png

Airbnb room occupancy rates in Newcastle tended to follow the same pattern as the hotel industry during the summer season (May-September), albeit achieving a much lower rate; however they drop off significantly in the winter.

Airbnb image 2.png

Average room rates in hotels and Airbnb properties are difficult to compare as the Airbnb properties vary considerably from bed and breakfasts through to apartments. Overall Airbnb properties are generating higher average nightly rates, which would be expected as they include multi-room properties.   The surge in room rates in Airbnb properties over the period November-December is mainly due to higher rates in rented houses.

If you would like to include Airbnb statistics in your T-Stats system, or would be interested in using T-Stats in your destination, please contact

7 April 2017

Acorn T-Stats


Just what is Tourism Intelligence?


by Kevin Millington, Acorn T-Stats director


So you want to market your destination more effectively. But how do you generate some really useful intelligence from a load of data that you’ve collected from existing or potential visitors?


This is the conundrum that faces most destinations. If information is data with a story attached, intelligence is information with a strategy attached – or at least some strategic pointers. Intelligence should clearly assist the user to make some decisions – it gives direction.


If you Google search Tourism Marketing Intelligence System you are unlikely to find anything significant. Put simply, the concept doesn’t really exist in any meaningful form. Some destinations have developed computer-based programmes that help interpret data, most typically relating to visitor arrivals, but these tend to be few and far between. The tourism sector, it seems, is remarkably uninventive when it comes to developing systems that help interpret data and give users some clues with regards to what they should do next.


I have just arrived in St. Lucia in the Caribbean, and this week we are gathering together representatives from all nine Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) countries to thrash out what will become the bones of a Tourism Marketing Intelligence System for the region.


The options up for discussion vary widely from a system that will provide intelligence on air and cruise visitors, through to the monitoring and analysis of social media campaigns to provide intelligence on their effectiveness.


Whatever is agreed upon when all the talking is over, one thing is for sure, the system will interpret the data and turn information into intelligence that will give all nine countries some clear direction on what they need to do to be more competitive in the region. Hopefully it will also inspire other destinations to think more about being creative with their data, and start making it work for them.

km blog 090317


February 2017

Acorn director Kevin Millington files a regular column for the online newsletter, Tourism Consultants Network News. Here are some of his latest findings:


A new survey by Signal, a global leader in real-time, cross-channel marketing, has revealed that a majority of consumers (51%) regularly uses two or more devices for planning and booking trips. UK travellers are using digital devices more than ever before, with smartphones, desktops, laptops and tablets being used for researching travel and booking holidays. The survey of 2,000 UK consumers shows that 83% of consumers used a computer, tablet or smartphone to plan their trip in the last year, a 36% increase on the previous year. For more information, click here.


Customisation has reached new heights. Travel company Black Tomato has launched Blink, a new service which allows people to ‘design their own luxury temporary accommodation in locations that are so private, pristine and untouched that no one else will have stayed there before (or again) in the same way.’ The company’s experts will hand pick unlikely locations, from the Bolivian salt flats to an Icelandic fjord, where camps can be set up for clients. Afterwards, there will be no trace it was ever there. Prices range from £8,800 to £23,000 (both based on six people), depending on destination. Check out 11 Hotel Trends for 2017.


VisitEngland has recently updated its audit of accommodation. The census includes over 33,000 serviced and 31,000 non-serviced establishments categorised by area and accommodation type. The latest England Occupancy Survey shows the average room occupancy rate up to November 2016 at 71%, up 1% on 2015. Regionally, Yorkshire and the North East have experienced the greatest occupancy growth.


According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, tourist arrivals growth was 3.7% to September 2016, weaker than the 4.6% recorded over the same period in 2015. Asia Pacific is expected to have been the fastest growing world region in terms of tourist arrivals, up by 9.3%. South Korea, Vietnam and Japan all recorded growth rates of over 20%. The Americas grew by 4.4% with Chile up 29%, Cuba 12% and Canada 11%. For more information, go to the WTTC November 2016 Full Report.

50 year UK Stats Snapshot
Sunday Times 50 years of business from National Statistics
  1964 2014
Train journeys 928m 1.6bn
London tube journeys 674m 1.3bn
Aircraft landings/take-offs 480k 2m
Airport terminal passengers 17.6m 228.4m
Strike days lost 227bn 443k


The latest arrivals data from the International Passenger Survey for January-November 2016 shows that total visitors are up 3% and spend 1%. However, digging a bit deeper reveals that any positive exchange rate fluctuations for overseas visitors to the UK do not appear to have had an effect to date. Holiday visitors are down 1% in 2016 compared to 2015. It is VFR arrivals that is most strongly supporting arrivals growth, increasing by 9%. Find out more here.


There was a change in the travelling habits of Europeans in 2016 as they opted for safe destinations, including a stagnation in sea and beach holidays, whilst taking more city trips. Outbound trips by Europeans grew by 2.5% in the first 8 months of 2016, according to World Travel Monitor figures. Outbound trips to destinations within Europe increased by 3% as travellers stayed closer to home, while trips to Asia grew by only 2%, and there was a 1% drop in trips to the Americas.

Top performers in terms of outbound growth were Poland and Ireland (both +7%), UK, The Netherlands, Spain and Denmark (all +6%), whilst the German market grew by 4%.

Interestingly, trips by Europeans for holidays increased by only 2%, while visits to friends and relatives grew by 10%. The destinations experiencing most growth included Spain and Portugal in the Mediterranean, and Norway and Iceland in northern Europe. For more details, read on here.