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.


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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.

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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.



Tracking tourism in Oman


This week I’m back in Oman at the Ministry of Tourism in Muscat.

We’re doing lots of exciting stuff, including the development of a quarterly statistics monitor to provide some indicators about how tourism is performing in Oman.  It needs to be up-to-date and current, showing changes compared to the same period the previous year.

When you search about, there is a surprising range of useful indicators that can paint a picture of tourism in a destination.

Firstly, there are the obvious ones that most destinations focus on: tourist arrivals by purpose of visit for (at least) the top five source markets. Better still, it’s good to concentrate on leisure tourist arrivals, as these are the ones a national tourism administration will primarily be responsible for attracting. Timeliness of this data can sometimes be a challenge, but working closely with immigration departments can help.

Then there are accommodation data, ideally room occupancy and average room rates. These are usually available from monthly accommodation surveys. Not all hotels and guesthouses need to respond to these – a sample is enough.

Visits to attractions can usually be collected fairly quickly and without too much difficulty. Again, not all attractions need to provide data, as long as those that do are broadly representative of all attractions in the destination, and therefore can give an indication of change in tourist demand.

Possibly the easiest indicators to collect, and at no cost, are digital media statistics. Some of the most useful include unique visitors to the destination website and followers on Facebook and Twitter. All of these provide an indication of interest in the destination, and can be a useful measure of marketing activity.

Throwing in some national or international economic indicators is always worthwhile, to create a broader picture. These might include exchange rates with those currencies most used by inbound tourists, the domestic interest rate, rate of inflation, and fuel prices. All of these have an impact on either inbound and/or domestic tourism demand. They may not change vastly from one month to the next, but when doing annual comparisons they can provide some interesting insight.

Finally, for good measure, it’s not a bad idea to engage with the tourism sector through a business barometer survey, emailing accommodation establishments, tour operators, attractions, and other businesses that interact with tourists with a short online survey. Asking questions such as: what are your prospects for visits or forward bookings over the next three months? provide a good indication of business sentiment and confidence in the sector.

Sometimes it’s surprising how much intelligence you can pull together to track tourism in a destination; as was the case here in Oman.




Natural Capital Accounting for Tourism in Botswana

I’ve just arrived in Botswana, and whilst I’ve been working on and off here since 1999 it’s good to see Gaborone again. In many respects, Botswana is the birthplace of the tourism statistics database (T-Stats) that we’ve created and is in use around the world. Whilst I’m here to update their system and convert it into a cloud-based online system, there’s something more ground breaking to do that will utilise the information in the database.

We are working on a WAVES (Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services) project. This is a global partnership bringing together a broad coalition of governments, UN agencies and nongovernmental organisations aimed at establishing Natural Capital Accounts.

Sounds complicated? Well, not really, and in fact quite logical. Let me explain. When a company measures its annual performance it compiles a profit and loss account to find out how much it has made, and a balance sheet to identify its assets.

Traditional national accounts tend to serve the profit and loss side of things when measuring the economic performance of a country. For example the national accounts for agriculture show the output from farming, national accounts for minerals show the output from mining, etc. For tourism we develop a Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), which shows the output from tourism activities.

What these national accounts don’t show are the balance sheets. For example, when mining takes place in a country, the resource (diamonds, gold, coal, etc) is diminished. It is taken away, and the country has less of it. This is the basis behind natural capital accounting.

In Botswana a natural capital account for water has already been produced. Now it is the turn for tourism. Measuring tourism is not a straightforward process at the best of times (compared to measuring other sectors such as mining, agriculture and manufacturing). However, World Tourism Organization guidelines developed over the last 20 years have made it a well-documented process.

Developing a Natural Capital Account for tourism is less well documented, and in fact hasn’t been done anywhere else in the world yet. One of the first tasks is to determine how to measure the tourism resource. In Botswana this is mainly the national parks and game reserves that the tourists pay to visit. The quality of these parks largely determines the price tourists will pay to visit Botswana. If they become overcrowded with tourists, environmentally damaged, or suffer a reduction in wildlife stock they will become less valuable, no different from a diamond mine with fewer diamonds left in it to extract.

So that’s our task…to work out how the account will be compiled, and put together a work plan that will set out the process for collecting all the data required. It should be a busy and exciting few months.

BOTSWANA (Okavanga Delta) shutterstock_162514037

Tuvalu – The Least Visited Paradise!

It is human nature when looking at ranked lists (no matter what they may be of) to see who is at the top and who is at the bottom! In the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) table of tourism destinations, France stands proudly at the top with almost 84 million arrivals in 2014. At the bottom lies Tuvalu, a tiny country made up of 9 coral atolls in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean.

In 2014, just 1,416 tourists visited Tuvalu, of which only 424 were travelling on holiday. It is hard to comprehend why so few people visit somewhere that, to most Europeans and North Americans, looks pretty close to their vision of an island paradise. Azure blue lagoons with low lying white sandy beaches and palm trees is a pretty accurate description of Tuvalu.

However, they are not easy to reach. The only air link is by Fiji Airways, which flies twice a week using a 66 seat aircraft, or the less frequent three-day trip on a small ship, also from Fiji.

When you get there, accommodation is limited and of not a particularly high quality, the variety of food is also limited, and there isn’t much to do. Diving would be world class, but there are no certified dive operators. Yachting and fishing would also be appealing to many tourists, but facilities are currently lacking.

Despite the lack of visitors, the reason I’m currently here in Tuvalu is to conduct a tourist survey. The country urgently needs good solid data upon which to base the recommendations of their recently completed National Tourism Development Strategy, which was undertaken by the South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

This survey is clear evidence that no matter how small your tourism sector is, good data is essential to ensure future decisions are based on solid evidence rather than hearsay. Tuvalu deserves it!