Ethiopian Business Review

Tourism-led Urban Regeneration of Addis

Several European cities left by industries and who has accumulated ‘obsolete’ built environment, which is human-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity, ranging in scale from buildings to parks. Among such cities Barcelona, Glasgow and Bilbao have become models of a tourist magnet city by adopting urban regeneration strategies. Consequently, more and more cities have begun to invest in building hospitality facilities, cultural and convention centres as well as museums, landmarks, entertainment and sports facilities in order to attract tourists and to please ‘the tourist gaze’. This can be called tourism-led urban regeneration.


The contemporary use of the past, in a sense implies to the clarification of the past to infuse it with present purposes to achieve continuity with time. The past represented in architecture, culture, transportation systems, dining habit and lifestyle in general is only appreciated in publications and rarely utilized to produce urban regeneration by creating tourist consciousness. 

The assessment of the tourism function of historic inner cities is not only to be seen as a cultural process in society as Myriam Jansen-Verbeke, professor emeriti of the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium)  argues, but also as the result of a specific leisure policy by which urban recreation is reconsidered and evaluated as an alternative to countryside recreation.

Unlike many European cities, the general public attitude towards historic vicinities of Addis Ababa so far is unappreciative of its inner-city touristic potentials. Historic urban areas of Addis with peculiar physical representation of a past era, familiarity and belongingness in a changing environment, richness and diversity in craftsmanship and care: all open interesting approaches to the city’s touristic development.    

Addis’ historic urban areas and their values, however, are not promoted and appreciated practically in an organized manner. But they can be conserved and branded as tourist conscious products that are specifically selected and packaged for tourism marketing. The tourist product consists of a specific environment offering a spatially concentrated supply of facilities in a typical urban landscape, with both facilities and setting complementary in the leisure function of the inner city. 

Primary elements of this product are its characteristics as an “activity place.” Possible leisure activities are largely but not entirely conditioned by the presence of a set of facilities. In many features of the inner-city environment of Addis, all sorts of indigino-modern lifestyle can be considered as the “leisure setting” in the contemporary space-time continuum. 

Jansen-Verbeke stresses on the point that the historical setting is highly appreciated by visitors with a higher educational level. The analysis of tourists’ appreciation of the inner city as a leisure faculty and as a touristic place is based on two main points: the importance given to each of the elements and characteristics of the inner city. The historical setting and morphological characteristics can be seen as the most important elements. Jansen-Verbeke further specifies this overall conclusion by characteristic features, such as historical facades, bridges, monuments, and the compactness of the inner-city area. Shopping facilities, markets, restaurants, bars, and pubs undoubtedly play an important role in attracting visitors.  

The most challenging aspect of this exploration into inner-city tourism is the relationship between the elements of product, tourist, and promoter. Promoters of inner-city tourism include all institutions and organizations intending to develop and promote tourist flows to the inner city. Their objective is to attract more visitors, obtain a higher rate of visits, and eventually extend the duration of visits. 

The complexity of inner-city tourism as a system, the numerous elements considered to be touristic resources, and the variable and fashion-influenced behavior and appreciation of tourists requires that promoters to seriously consider the strengths and weaknesses of their product and evaluate them based on their degree of importance. Promoters generally believe that the historical setting is a primary condition for inner-city tourism as a given fact. The second interest seems to be mainly in accommodation facilities for tourists and the organization of events. Their impact on inner-city tourism is more directly related to tourists than to the product itself.

Local policies to stimulate tourism development can be based on a number of small-scale improvements to the inner city. Suggestions given by promoters will be effective only if based on a genuine knowledge of tourists’ demands and suggestions. Planning access to places of historical interest, conservation of the historical urban landscape and invention of new attractions for tourists such as abundance in hotel accommodation and shopping areas, is important. The importance of green spaces is also of an equal importance in the inner-city tourist led regeneration design and planning. 

Urban planning strategies based on inner-city regeneration can potentially equip Addis with capacities to revitalize socio-economic activities and sustains the legacies of the peculiar indigino-modern image identity of the city. It is still necessary to responsibly contemplate contextual outcomes of near-inner city built environment early in the design process so that when the nouveau-riche immediate development novelty wears out and the society begins to understand genuine processes of civilization with education, it may at least get them a chance to regret what is lost by their spontaneity to the superficial a long time after it is all destroyed. 

8th Year • Feb.16 - Mar.15 2019 • No. 71



Nahom Gedeon

is an architect.
He can be reached at

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