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The inauguration ceremony of the Port of Doraleh
currently are transported to its large, landlocked southern neighbor, Ethiopia, only one and a half hours’ drive away. Djibouti has acted as this country’s port since the independence of coastal Eritrea, as well as importing and exporting for Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea. “Nowadays everybody is buying goods from China, which are more accessible costwise for Africans, and so the port has massive potential for moving Chinese goods into the whole of East Africa and for hosting showrooms for goods where our neighbors from unstable or landlocked countries can easily access them,” says Boreh. Despite Djibouti’s privileged position with regard to Ethiopian trade, the country is never taken for granted. “Of course, Ethiopia’s development is taken into consideration here in all that is built, but we also want to give them the best services and gain their goodwill, so that, if other alternatives do exist one day they will still choose to use Djibouti,” Boreh comments. Trade will receive an additional boost from the rehabilitation of the Djibouti-Ethiopia railway which is underway, while Boreh is also ready to construct a pipeline to transport fuel southwards, which would save Ethiopia vast sums of money in transportation costs. “What we have done so far in Djibouti is just the tip of the iceberg. DP World brought the necessary expertise, but we have only used perhaps 12% of our potential to date. The state of Djibouti is trying to use the remaining 88%, taking advantage of our strategic position as a gateway to Africa, the Middle East and Europe and at the mouth of the Red Sea,” Boreh concludes.
A haven for tourism The Djibouti government is also encouraging the growth of other service industries, the most promising of which is tourism. While it would like to develop the sector to become the new Dubai, sustainability is important; new coastal developments must either avoid or replant mangrove systems, for example. The safe and politically-stable country has a wealth of natural attractions. An unspoilt divers’ paradise, Djibouti is one of the few places where tourists can swim with the planet’s largest fish, the harmless whale shark, which feeds off the coast. It is filled with the kind of virgin volcanic desert vistas that formed the setting for the 1968 film ‘Planet of the Apes.’ It is also home to the eerie salt lake, Lake Assal. To boost tourist numbers by 50% in the next three years from around 30,000 currently, of whom two-thirds are from France, the government has embarked on an ‘open skies’ policy and offers additional investment incentives. Tourist visas will be available on arrival at the airport, which itself will be increased in capacity, and tax exemptions are available for 25 years to hoteliers as well as discounted electricity. Paving the way for further development in the sector is the recentlyopened luxury Djibouti Palace Kempinski hotel, financed by Dubai Al Nakheel, the wealthy Emirate’s premier development company and part of Dubai World. “We have turned the impossible into a luxurious
Djibouti Palace Kempinski, where the impossible becomes a luxurious reality
reality as this hotel was designed, built and opened in nine months,” says general manager Bugra Berberoglu. Near to the airport, port and business district, the hotel is located on its own private beachfront between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, in a secluded setting of palms and bourgainvillea. It boasts every luxury expected of an international, 5-star hotel. Besides 177 luxuriously equipped and spacious rooms and suites with Wi-Fi connection, the hotel hosts North Africa’s largest conference center and a comprehensive business center. Leisure facilities include a private beach, pool, fully-equipped fitness center, spa, water sports, entertainments program, and a wealth of dining and bar options. A marina is the latest addition to this palatial hotel, and Chinese visitors —which account for 15% of the total—are catered for with three Mandarin-speaking staff. “Our efforts have already been recognized, as we have been nominated in the Best 5-Star New Hotel of the Year 2007 category of the Middle East North Africa Travel Awards, and are the first hotel in Africa to have received the excellence hospitality award from the globally renowned 7 Stars & Stripes, which awards hotels above the 5-star level,” says Berberoglu. The Djibouti Palace Kempinski is also opening a training center for the country’s hotel industry to boost standards and employment in the sector, and is developing a nearby paradise island in a sustainable way. “We have two objectives,” concludes Berberoglu: “To be the best hotel in Africa, and to put Djibouti on the tourist map, albeit an eco-friendly, selective one.” The first objective has arguably already been achieved; the second, with effort and investment, should happen very soon.
Djibouti at a glance Location: Horn of Africa, at the mouth of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean Total area: 23,200 km² Population: 500,000 approx. Official Languages: Arabic and French GDP: U.S.$1.878 billion GDP per head: U.S.$2,070 Inflation Rate: 3% Currency: Djibouti Franc pegged to U.S. dollar Business Focus
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