We believe community tourism means holidays that support local communities, but we also believe that holidays must give our guests a wonderful time.
Tesfa Tours was set up in 2010 to take on the mantle of promoting the community tourism that has been developed in Ethiopia under Mark Chapman’s guidance since 1999. Our holidays all include a key element of this community tourism.
We work closely with the communities, the guides and other stakeholders to ensure the success of this special ‘project’ which now involves over 20 communities serving food and hosting guests in both the Wollo (Lalibela) and Tigray areas.
Mark first started exploring Ethiopia in 1992/93, and moved to Ethiopia in 1997. He began developing the concept of community tourism in the mountains around Lalibela soon after and has been involved in Tesfa Tours ever since. Despite greying hairs he continues to enjoy exploring the countryside and mountains in Ethiopia.
Yeshi has been working for Tesfa Tours since 2011 and previously worked with the community guides in Lalibela. Her home town is Lalibela, so she knows the area and the communities in the Tesfa treks very well. She is passionate about supporting the communities through the Tesfa treks, and dedicated to ensuring our clients get the best possible trip.
Tamirat comes from Gondar, where he has worked in tourism for many years. He has a lot of experience running tours in the Simiens and has led several 'off the map' treks there. Tamirat joined our team in 2016 and shares his expertise with the rest of the team.
Betty joined Tesfa Tours in April 2016 as sales assistant. Having initially worked in horticulture, she decided to switch her career path top tourism and recently obtained her tourism diploma at an Addis Ababa Tourism college. If you want to ask about growing vegetables - she is still the office expert, but now is happier advising clients on community tourism treks.
True community tourism is a partnership between philanthropic businesses and community-run enterprises.
This partnership should enable local communities to generate sustainable improvements in their livelihood through the development of their own tourism-related enterprises, while also contributing to the protection of their physical and cultural environments. Thus community tourism is not merely tourism that benefits the communities, but also tourism in which a part of the product is owned by the communities.
This means that not only do benefits (including income) flow directly to the community, but that they also learn to make decisions and run their own businesses. The result is a dignified and well balanced relationship between the service giver: the community, and the service receiver: the guest.
Mark Chapman began developing the concept of community tourism in the mountains around Lalibela in 1999, when he joined the SOS Sahel team who were working on an integrated rural development programme in Meket Woreda (District).
He envisaged a network of community-run tourism enterprises that would allow tourists to trek across the remarkable landscape, getting closer to the real culture of the Ethiopian highlands, and at the same time put precious money into the local communities for whom farming is becoming ever more precarious a livelihood. During the early days the big challenge was persuading the communities that tourism was an option and that it would bring them benefits. Mark first visited Mequat Mariam in November 2000 and, after lengthy discussion work, started there early in 2002. In late 2002 the SOS Sahel project came to an early end, and with it the Community Tourism pilot project.
In 2003 the donors approached Save the Children UK to continue some of SOS Sahel’s work including the Community Tourism, as part of a livelihood development programme. At the same time Mark and some of the SOS Sahel team members set up a local NGO called T.E.S.F.A. (Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives), and it was to TESFA that Save the Children turned to implement the community tourism component of their project. TESFA was first registered in 2003 as Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives, a non-profit making, local Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) or charity.
In late 2009 TESFA re-registered under the new Charities and Civil Society legislation as TESFA Community-based Tourism (or TESFA CbT for short). TESFA CbT had a head office in Addis Ababa and field offices in Lalibela (Wollo) and Adigrat (Tigray). Funding partners who have enabled the Community Tourism to grow: TESFA initially operated as part of a Save the Children (UK) project to develop rural livelihoods in the area with funding the Royal Netherlands Embassy. The project which began in 2004, ran up to/until April 2008.
From 2006 -2010 TESFA CbT received grants from the Irish Embassy/Irish Aid which enabled the setting up of the Guiding Enterprise in Lalibela and a marketing and booking support service in Addis Ababa. The British Embassy also provided grants to develop the marketing and further expand the operation in Meket.
Additional funding was received in 2007/2008 from the German Embassy, www.responsibletravel.com, the Tresillian Trust, ICAP, the Embassy Wives fund and numerous clients and supporters who enabled TESFA to extend the network of community tourism sites in Meket Woreda and on to Abuna Yoseph where TESFA worked/was working in collaboration with Frankfurt Zoological Society to help conserve the fragile environment on this mountain home to the threatened and endemic Ethiopia Wolf. In addition, many individuals made donations to the TESFAcause, which enabled them to continue the community work. A big thank you to everyone who contributed.
In 2010 Mark left TESFA CbT to set up Tesfa Tours with the intention of continuing the marketing of the Tesfa Community Tourism.
In March 2012 TESFA CbT ceased to operate/closed.
Tesfa Tours was able to provide guests with a continued booking service and continue its marketing of the Tesfa product. Tesfa Tours is now forging a link with Village Ways in developing and promoting community tourism in Ethiopia. Village Ways are experts at/in developing community-run guest houses in India and their guest houses bear remarkable similarities to the community-run accommodation that Mark and Tesfa have developed in Ethiopia.
I have just taken a small group of pupils (aged 17) from a London inner city school for a 3 day 2 night trek in Tigray with Tesfa Tours and I can honestly say it was an incredible experience for them and up there in the best 3 things I have ever done. The organisation of the tour was flawless, the guide exceptional and the scenery was nothing short of spectacular!