With the war in Northern Ethiopia and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of visitors coming to tourist destinations in South Ethiopia has decreased significantly, according to the Gurage zone’s tourism office.
The tourism flow to the Gurage zone declined by 75 percent in the past two years.
Tiya, an archeological location registered by UNESCO in 1980 as a World Heritage Site, is a major tourist destination in the Gurage Zone.
Tiya entertained thousands of tourists each year prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. In 2019/20, 19,500 local and 2,019 international tourists visited the site. In 2020/21 the number dramatically declined to 4,800 and 215 local and international tourists respectively.
Getachew Teka, Sodo Woreda’s Head of Culture and Tourism Office in Gurage Zone, said the number has shown a slight difference in 2021/22 from the previous year with 5,451 domestic and 280 foreign visitors going to Tiya.
The stones of Tiya are located near the town of Sodo, 80 km away from Addis Ababa on the road to Butajira. They are said to have been erected between the 12th and 14th centuries.
Of the 41 stones at Tiya, the tallest is two meters long.
According to Getachew, 32 of them have clear artifacts carved over them which suggest that they are tombstones of heroes, military leaders, and rulers of the past.
Among the artifacts that can be seen on the stones, there are symbols of people, weapons, swords, round bread, crosses, and many others.
Apart from Tiya, there are similar tombstones found in the Gurage zone, in the Sosye, Kash, and Debe localities.
Getachew says the fact that the number of visitors declined can be associated with health and security concerns at the international and national levels.
“The stones at Tiya need refurbishing from time to time as a World Heritage Site,” says Getachew, adding that the lack of infrastructure in the area is another factor that discourages tourists from coming to the area.
“Roads, recreational facilities and other problems are a challenge to tourism of the area and due attention should be given to that,” he explained. The matter has been raised to the concerned bodies continuously, added Getachew, mentioning that the efforts have been futile.
“This is a world and national heritage location; it deserves attention,” said Getachew.