Contribution of Cultural Heritage to Sustainable Tourism Development in Ethiopia: Evidences from Lalibela Rock Hewn Church

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Addis Ababa University


The rock hewn churches of Lalibela are among the nine tangible sites in Ethiopia registered in the world heritage list. The study was carried out to asses and identifies the major contributions of Lalibela Rock Hewn Churches (RHCL) to sustainable tourism development in Ethiopia. The study used concurrent mixed method of data collection such as questionnaire, interview, observation and document review. A total of 288 respondents from local communities and visitors were used for collecting primary information via semi-structured questioner. In addition, 10 representatives of local communities were interviewed in the course of the study. The life of local community in Lalibela is related to the churches: physically the peoples live around them, economically the churches are the main sources of income, and spiritually the peoples belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. The majority of respondents are participating in tourism sector such as in accommodation, shopping, hotel, cooking and traditional performance, serving as priest and being experts in the city administration office of culture and tourism. Despite its importance, regarding the negative impact of tourism; the majority of respondents 70 (63.6%) agreed and 27 (24.3%) disagree for the question “tourism has increased the level of commercialized the culture in Lalibela town. Around 87.6% of the respondents were their first trip to visit the RHCL. The majority of the respondents 57 (32%) came to Lalibela mainly to visit the rock-hewn churches after they got information from their friends and colleagues. The majority of visitors 103 (58%) estimated that the state of degradation of the RHCL within the next ten years might be between 41-70%. Hence, among the RHCL Bete Amanuel, Bete Abba Libanos, Bete Medhanealem, Bete Merkorios, Bete Giorgis are highly endangered in the parts such as roof, pillars, interior and exterior parts cracking due to the newly constructed shelter load and geological, climate and biological factors. The conservation and maintenance works used to sustain tourism practices in Lalibela lacks adequacy. Therefore, the responsible parties of the RHCL such as government organizations, local community, civil societies and development investors must work to meet standards for conserving and sustaining tourism development practices in Ethiopia, particularly in Lalibela.



Conservation, Ethiopia, RHCL, Sustainable, Tourism