THURSDAY May 2, 2019
By Joe Lihundi
Tranquility News Reporter, Arusha
An uptick in diplomatic ties between Tanzania and Israel has started bearing socio-economic fruits, as over 1,000 Israelis visited Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater recently.
Tanzania cemented renewal of its friendship with Israel when it opened its embassy in Ramat Gan in May last year; over 20 years after ties between the two countries were re-established.
Tanzania had initially established diplomatic ties with Israel in 1963, but the relations were torn asunder in 1973, owing to intense Arab pressure over Palestine.
Since April 20, this year, the Israelis were in the northern tourism circuit sampling various attractions in Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area for one week.
The Tanzania Tourist Board Director, Ms Devota Mdachi, said a similar group of tourists from Israel were scheduled to arrive in Tanzania by June this year.
“Also expected in May this year are over 300 tourists from China,” she said in an interview with Tranquility News, adding that the board was also arranging a trip of Israel journalists and tour operators to Tanzania later this year.
“I could not imagine what I would see upon my arrival a week ago, the country is very good and its people are excellent,” one of the Israel tourists, Mr Eytan Arud, said on the sidelines of the farewell ceremony.
Mr Arud observed, however, that roads heading for Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater needed to be improved.
Tanzania’s Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa pleaded with the visitors to serve as Tanzania’s ambassadors back home as he saw off 274 tourists on the Israel Airlines plane at Kilimanjaro International Airport.
Mr Majaliwa said Tanzania was endowed with a myriad of tourist attractions countrywide, asking the Israelis to consider coming back to visit Rubondo, Katavi and Ruaha national parks and Selous Game Reserve in the Southern Circuit as well as Zanzibar.
“We’re flattered,” Mr Majaliwa told Mr Carmel Shlomo, the Director of Another World, as he extended his gratitude to Israel and local tour operators for promoting Tanzania as number one tourist attraction in Africa.
Ten tour operating firms were involved in arranging the Israelis safari to Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, namely Excellent Guides, Mauly Tours and Safaris, Matembezi, Leopard Tours and Safaris, African Queen Adventures and TAWISA from Tanzania and Another World, My Trip, Camel na Safari Company from Israel.
Mr Majaliwa invited members of the business community from Israel to invest in the tourism sector in the natural-resource rich Tanzania.
Dr Hamis Kigwangalla, the Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, said Tanzania, which had earmarked a quarter of its area for conservation, was reforming the tourism sector for it to provide quality services.
Last year, the ministry unveiled its ambitious plan to invest over Sh300 billion (about $6.8 billion) in the untapped southern circuit for the country to register 2.2 million tourist arrivals a year from the current 1.2 million.
Dr Kigwangalla said the money would be spent on improving infrastructure, increasing tourist services and promoting the virgin destination and its rich culture, cuisine and people
Earnings of tourism, the Tanzania’s main source of hard currency, jumped 7.13 per cent in 2018, as a result of increased arrivals of foreign visitors, Mr Majaliwa told Parliament recently.
Tourism revenues fetched $2.43 billion during the year in review, up from $2.19 billion in 2017. Tourist arrivals totaled 1.49 million in 2018, as opposed to 1.33 million a year ago.