Four-star hotels and above will be able to have duty-free shops on their premises, once the new customs regulations are implemented. The rules have already been approved and are being printed for distribution.
Hilton, which is partly government owned, and public hotel Ghion are the only ones that have a duty free shop available on their premises. Run by the state-owned Ethiopian Tourist Trading Enterprise, these stores were once the go-to place for the diplomatic community to procure different items.
The regulation will be the first of its kind with details on how duty-free shops should be run in the country. It also provides access to the private sector to engage in business at locations outside of airports. Private duty free shops are only available at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport.
With the regulations already approved and soon to be operational, anyone with an import license, a capital of 10 million birr and a customs-licensed duty-free warehouse will be eligible to own a duty-free shop.
Decisions on how duty-free shops should be opened were made by mail for lack of regulations on the matter, according to Mulugeta Beyene, deputy commissioner for the legal compliance sector at the Customs Commission.
“Customs regulations open access to the private sector with qualifications,” Mulugeta said.
Shops would be permitted in places such as international airports, limited customs checkpoints, the headquarters of the African Union, the Economic Commission for Africa, four-star and above hotels and other places that the Ministry of Revenue could decide, according to the regulations.
The Enterprise unilaterally operates duty-free shops in all locations in the city outside the airport. Implementing the regulations will end corporate dominance.
“There are people like diplomats with privileges, but they are limited to a certain number of items according to the quota administered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Mulugeta said explaining the need to expand the accessibility of stores.
The government plans to collect the currency in addition to making items available to the diplomatic community, as all items must be sold in foreign currencies.
All inbound and outbound passengers as well as transit passengers will be permitted to purchase items from duty free shops available only at the airport. However, only diplomats and staff of international organizations with the specific privilege will be allowed to purchase items from stores outside airports, as per the regulations.
Alcoholic beverages, household items, electronics, packaged food and beverages, clothing, souvenirs, perfumes and several other items will be sold in stores, as specified in the regulations.
Aster Solomon, chairman of the Addis Ababa Hotel Owners Association and owner of the Mosaic Hotel, hails the new development for the variety of service options it would offer hotels. Opening duty-free shops in hotels would allow them to provide services from A to Z, according to Aster.
“It’s a good start now, but I expect the government to implement it at least in three-star hotels, because they also have a high number of customers paying in foreign currencies,” Aster said. .
The Customs Commission will have strong control mechanisms such as applying duty-free stickers to items to hold those who use them illegally liable at the time of inspection.
Shops will also be subject to a series of follow-ups by Commission inspection teams to check how, when and to whom they sold the items. Sales and other documents will also be checked, according to Mulugeta.