YOU MAY HAVE COME ACROSS A TV commercial for Coke Zero in which an older man is razzed by a younger one for mistaking the new drink for a regular Coke. To prove his mind hasn't gone soft, the elder begins flaunting his knowledge, asking of his young affronter, "Do you know what the capital of Djibouti is?" Without much pause he answers himself. "It's Djibouti. The capital of Djibouti is Djibouti."
The commercial gives some exposure to a place that people may know more for its amusing-sounding name than for what it offers as a travel destination.
The Africa Travel Association (ATA) along with Djibouti itself, which is located on the continent's northeast coast, is looking to change that. "We want people to ask 'Where is Djibouti?' not 'What is Djibouti?'" said Mohamed Abdillahi Wais, director of Djibouti's National Tourism Office, who affectionately refers to the country as "Dji-beauty."
To spread the word, in December the ATA launched the Djibouti Tourism Promotional Roadshow to educate North American travel agents, consumers and media about the attractions and history of this nation about the size of Massachusetts. The group also selected Djibouti to host its annual Eco and Cultural Tourism Symposium later this month.
"Agents can sell ecotourism, the pristine beaches, the great diving and the spectacular fishing," said Bugra Berberoglu, general manager of the Djibouti Palace Kempinski, official hotel for the January 19-23 ATA conference.
According to Wais, wherever people travel in the country, they feel as if they are the first to visit the spot—the land is that unspoiled. Traveling there is relatively easy, too: The currency is attached to the U.S. dollar, so tourists can use American money, and they can purchase a visa at the airport. —DAVID EISEN