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Five-year strategic plan to hit the ground running, Tanzania’s leading conference centre says

Ms Christine Mwakatobe, the first female Managing Director of the state-run centre, pledges to begin from where her predecessor, Mr Ephraim Mafuru, ended.

SUNDAY MARCH 24, 2024

Premises housing headquarters of Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) in northern Tanzania. PHOTO | COURTESY

By Patty Magubira

The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania

The newly appointed Managing Director of Tanzania’s Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC), Ms Christine Mwakatobe, has unveiled her plan to take the profit-making centre and conference tourism at large to new heights.

The centre, which incurred back-to-back loses for five years, has of late been registering steady growth, thanks to Covid-19 pandemic recovery strategies for opening up the country.

AICC swiftly tapped into the opportunity by promoting the centre and devising aggressive marketing strategies that saw the centre garnering about $5,798,676 worth of revenues from conference tourism and various assets it owns in 2021/22, against $4,510,515 recorded in 2019/21.

The outgoing AICC Managing Director, Mr Ephraim Mafuru, leaves the centre with an ambitious five-year strategic blueprint that is expected to further brand the centre for it to grow leaps and bounds.

The AICC Board of Directors already has approved the blueprint and set aside sufficient funds for implementing it.

Former CEO of the Tanzania’s defunct Kilimanjaro Airport Development Company (KADCO), Ms Christine Mwakatobe, addresses journalists at Arusha International Conference Centre after President Samia Suluhu Hassan appointed her Managing Director of the centre, succeeding Mr Ephraim Maufuru, who has been appointed Director General of Tanzania Tourists Board. PHOTOS | AICC

“My task has been made easy; I don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” recently said the first AICC female Managing Director as she thanked her predecessor, Mr Mafuru, for taking her through the blueprint and the outgoing and forthcoming budgets.

Providing an overview of the blueprint, Mr Mafuru said one of the components of the five-year strategy was to construct $156 worth Mount Kilimanjaro International Conference Centre (MKICC) in Arusha to host the world Congress of Beekeepers slated for September 20-25, 2027.

Tanzania was last September declared winner in Chile of the quest for hosting the congress after defeating United Arab Emirates, another finalist in the chase.

Mr Mafuru said preparations for the construction of the MKICC was in good progress and that the global committee of Apimondia would be in the county to inspect the ground work in July 2025.

Apimondia is the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations and manufacturers of beekeeping equipment, honey traders, development agents, and scientists involved in apiculture, apitherapy, pollination and economics.

The outgoing Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) Managing Director, Mr Ephraim Mafuru, addresses journalists shortly after he handed over the office to the new AICC Managing Director, Ms Christine Mwakatobe. Mr Mafuru was recently appointed Director General of Tanzania Tourists Board.

Mr Mafuru said the MKICC venture would be implemented in two phases, beginning with the construction of a big conference hall with the capacity of accommodating 3,000 people, a parking lot and an exhibition area, among other areas related to preparation of the Apimondia conference.

A five-star and four-star hotels with fully serviced apartments and presidential villas will be put up during the second phase.

Profit made

Unveiling the secret behind AICC becoming a profit-making public institution, Mr Mafuru said AICC had, in the first place, convened a meeting of its key players to prepare a pitch document.

The centre sold the pitch document to the International Association of Convention Centres, the industry association for professional convention and exhibition centre managers worldwide, as well as to international events and exhibitions to convince conference organisers to choose Tanzania, Arusha and AICC in particular.

“We assured them that AICC is ready to host such meetings. We saw meetings coming and hosted them very well to give the organisers a seamless experience,” he said.

Participants in one of the world Congresses of Beekeepers closely follow up on proceedings of the forum.Tanzania was last September declared winner in Chile of the quest for hosting the congress in July 2027 after defeating United Arab Emirates, another finalist in the chase. PHOTO | FAPZ.UNIAG

Mr Mafuru said the AICC plan was to continue engaging Tanzania Tourists Board, tour operators, hoteliers, media, immigration authorities and Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA), among others, to ensure several boxes tick when the centre pitched to attract conferences.

Ms Mwakatobe vowed, in turn, to implement the blueprint in place to buttress the profit being made and issue dividends to the government as part of the centre’s contribution to national strategic projects.

“I will ensure the strategy hits the ground running, as many opportunities are around the corner following the launch of the Tanzania: Royal Tour film,” she said.

Also, high on her agenda is improving the AICC workers’ perks to boost their morale and building bridges between the centre and other players with key contribution to conference tourism.

“We will also focus on offering service with a smile to keep customers coming back,” said Ms Mwakatobe, observing that feedback from clients was a buried treasure the centre would attempt to discover.

Ambassador Begum Taj, the Chairperson of Tanzania’s state-run Arusha International Conference Centre. The board has approved the centre’s five-year strategic plan which will see a new conference centre furnished with five-star and four-star hotels built in Arusha, Tanzania.

Ms Mwakatobe in 2011 joined the government’s executive arm entrusted with running Kilimanjaro Airport Development Company (KADCO), with a determination to shape the future of Tanzania’s aviation industry.

Her ability and meticulous efforts to spur business and generate sufficient revenue to foot overhead costs of the KADCO-manned KIA and relieve the government of issuing subsidy to the company, led her way up, rising through the ranks to the interim CEO at the company.

It was estimated that 40 per cent of around 1,000,000 tourists visiting Tanzania northern tourism circuit annually used to land at Jommo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi, Kenya, and then crossed overland into Tanzania’s national parks.

Ms Mwakatobe, backed by her high persuasive skills, worked extremely hard against all odds, and successfully managed to attract direct flights to KIA, significantly reducing the number of tourists who used to land at JKIA.

Official data indicates that under her leadership stint the airlines operating from KIA have grown to 15, up from 13 carriers.

Mr Ephraim Mafuru, the outgoing Managing Director of Arusha International Conference Centre, shakes hand with his successor, Ms Christine Mwakatobe, at the headquarters of the centre in northern Tanzania.

Cargo traffic also sprouted, as KIA had posted a 26 per cent upsurge in cargo volumes between 2019 and 2021.

In real figures, KIA handled a total of 4426.3363 metric tonnes in 2021, up from 3271.787 metric tonnes in 2019. “I thank the President, Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan, for trusting me, I will not let her down,” Ms Mwakatobe pledgedΩ

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