THURSDAY October 8, 2020
By Adam Ihucha
Tranquility News Correspondent, Arusha, Tanzania
FRANCE is the leading inbound travel market to Tanzania since the East African country re-opened its skies for tourists in the wake of the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Tanzania reopened its airspace for international passenger flights on June 1, 2020, after a three-month stint of the pandemic, becoming the pioneer country in the region to welcome tourists to sample its endowed attractions.
Latest statistic from the state-run conservation and tourism agency shows France is leading in the number of tourist arrivals over a three-month’s period covering July, August and September 2020.
Tanzania National Parks’ (TANAPA) Assistant Conservation Commissioner in charge of Business portfolio, Ms Beatrice Kessy, said records indicated a total of 3,062 French tourists visited national parks during the period under review, raising the France’s flag high as the top international tourists market for Tanzania amidst the crisis, overtaking the US with 2,327 holidaymakers.
The third in the list of key Tanzania’s tourist source markets at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic is Germany with 1,317 visitors followed by UK with 1,051 tourists in forth position.
Spain, in fifth spot, has supplied Tanzania with 1, 050 holidaymakers, trailed by India with 844 travelers who sampled bestowed natural beauties of the country.
Switzerland holds the seventh position with 727 tourists, trailed by Russia in the eighth slot with 669 visitors, Netherlands with 431 travelers is at the ninth place and the tenth being Australia for having brought 367 vacationers during the period under consideration.
This implies that France has not only cast a vote of confidence to Tanzania’s approach of handling the COVID-19 pandemic, but also become a true ally in helping the country to revive the tourism industry in a bid to spur other businesses, recover thousands of lost jobs, spawn and pump revenue into the coffers.
“We are so grateful to French tourists for casting a vote of confidence to Tanzania as a safe destination. Their arrival plays a key role in spreading trust more widely, with benefits traveling far beyond the tourism industry,” Ms Kessy explained.
For many, France has become the Tanzania’s best ally, indeed, as it supports the responsible and timely recovery of the tourism industry on which millions of small businesses and jobs depend.
The feat has not occurred by default, but rather it was out of painstaking joint efforts spearheaded by Tanzania Ambassador to France, Mr Samwel Shelukindo.
“My office worked extra-time in close cooperation with the Mount Kilimanjaro Safari Club (MKSC) and Axium by Parker as well as Tanzania Tourists Board (TTB).
“We’ve organised several meetings with tour operators and mainstream media to reassure them that Tanzania is a safe destination amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Shelukindo said in an exclusive interview.
He said President John Magufuli’s stance to keep the country free from lockdown and to welcome tourists had boosted their initiatives.
Indeed, President Magufuli, like his counterpart in Sweden, has never ordered a lockdown, thanks to the low cases count, and invited travellers to enter his country without restrictions.
“I can safely say this is a secret behind the feat. I’m proud of President Magufuli as he made us to work with confidence abroad.
“I’m also heavily indebted to MKSC, Axium by Parker and TTB for their spirited campaigns to promote Tanzania as a safe destination,” he said.
Since Mr Shelukindo assumed the office in Paris way back in 2017, the French tourist arrivals in Tanzania has tremendously been surging.
Official data shows in 2016, France supplied 24, 611 tourists, but in 2017, the number hit 33,925 travelers, while in 2018, there were 41,330 visitors and in 2019, 56,297 holidaymakers.
MKSC founder Denis Lebouteux said in most cases, French tourists have been flocking into Tanzania durimg low seasons when the country’s national parks and hotels are really hungry to fill the empty rooms.
“So this is the uniqueness of French tourists,” Mr Lebouteux said, adding that they go when the Tanzania needed them the most.
Enthralled by the country’s peace and love, its endowed wildlife, beaches and culture; French tourists are slowly, but surely becoming the cornerstone of the Tanzania’s tourism industry.
With nearly 1.5 million tourist arrivals annually, wildlife tourism continues growing and cementing its position as the leading foreign currency earner in Tanzania, fetching the country $2.5 billion, equivalent to nearly 17.6 per cent of its GDP.
In addition, tourism provides 600,000 direct jobs to Tanzanians, let alone over one million other citizens generating incomes from the industry.