The Commissioner, Oromia Tourism Commission (OTC), Lelise Dhugaa has won the coveted Africa Travel 100 Award which recognizes exceptional women in the travel and tourism sector.
Commissioner Lelise Dhugaa is among the foremost strategic development leaders in Ethiopia. The organization she worked to found and currently is the Commissioner of, Oromia Tourism Commission (OTC), is a leading innovative public institution in the country. She runs this commission along with a dedicated group of young leaders in a way that is just as inspiring as the impact the Commission has had on her region’s tourism sector.
Lelise was born to a large family and had quite humble beginnings in her career. She first worked at faith based organizations where she cultivated a value-driven approach to the projects she runs.
Moving on to international development organizations, Lelise was part of several projects where she worked to bring lasting changes in public health issues such as sexual and reproductive health including HIV/AIDS. It was also at these same organizations that Lelise worked on gender issues that helped her further cultivate a gender-sensitive outlook on development.
She then went to work at the Department for International Development (DFID) of the British Embassy in Ethiopia where she developed a keen interest in the importance of information for strategic decision making. After that, Lelise began serving as a Policy Advisor at the Office of the President of the Oromia National Regional State. This was where she envisioned the establishment of the Oromia Tourism Commission as the premier authority on tourism in the region.
The establishment of the Commission and how it was subsequently run are, in many ways, a reflection of how Lelise thinks about development. The workplace she created at the OTC is a nurturing environment in which young people are given leadership roles.
Lelise knows how to spot talent and does not fail at giving people a chance. As a leader who took the helm quite young herself, she understands the need to help young people live up to their potential. Her approach has so far helped make OTC one of the most innovative public institutions in the country with a talent pool to envy.
Lelise excels at creating lasting partnerships for a common vision. Her initiatives are always centered on bringing people together and bringing the best out of them through empathy and motivation. This is a strategic decision on her part as she values the need to ensure economic justice and push an inclusive agenda which, at their core, require motivated people doing their best.
At the regional level, Lelise works to bring together several actors both in the public and private spheres to achieve major strategic goals. In the case of the OTC, she engages with public organizations, international stakeholders and private companies working in tourism and promotion. Through several initiatives such as promotional drives and research projects, Lelise brings these stakeholders together resulting in successful modern marketing and promotional works for the tourism industry.
Lelise speaks Afaan Oromoo, Amharic, and English and in a diverse country such as Ethiopia, considers multilingualism to be an essential value to her and her organization, the OTC.
Recently, Lelise was recognized as a Pan-African Change Maker in the ‘Leadership in Public Service’ category at the Pan-African Humanitarian and Investment Award. Wanchi, a major destination of focus for her organization the OTC, was also recognized as one of the “Best Tourism Villages” by the UNWTO at its ceremony in Madrid, Spain. This came after intense work by the OTC and stakeholders to develop and highlight the sustainable tourism potentials of the village.
Today, Lelise leads the OTC in achieving its different missions of developing destinations across Oromia, promoting the region’s tourism, and most importantly creating sustainable jobs in the tourism sector.
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