Sole female tour operator shines among Tanzania’s 100 best CEOs in advent of Covid-19 pandemic

Zainab Ansell, her 99 equals will be feted early next month

MONDAY September 27, 2021

The founder of Zara Tours, Ms Zainab Ansell, has been picked one of the Tanzania’s top 100 CEOs to confront the Covid-19 pandemic. PHOTO | ZARA TOURS

By Adam Ihucha

The Tranquility News Correspondent, Arusha, Tanzania

Zara International Travel Agency (ZITA) chief executive officer Zainab Ansell has been named among Tanzania’s top executives who performed well among the peers in the corporate world amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Ansell emerged as the only female executive in a male dominated multi-billion-dollar tourism industry who made it to the list of 100 most effective CEOs in Tanzania for 2021, as recognised by a reputable management firm, Eastern Star Consulting Group Tanzania.

The Top 100 CEOs will be recognised on October 8, 2021, for playing a critical role in enabling the country’s economy to rebound in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis.

“Ms Zainab Ansell is one of the flamboyant female executives of our times. She’s successfully managed her business through the storms of Covid-19 pandemic, she deserves a standing ovation,” the Eastern Star Consulting Group Tanzania high-ranking official, Mr Allex Shayo, said.

The Top 100 Executives Awards seek to recognise and celebrate individual executives, appreciate their exceptional contributions to the country’s economy and to encourage innovation and to improve the overall performance of the corporate world.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators, Mr Sirili Akko, says the association is proud of Ms Zainab Ansell’s support to the needy. PHOTO | FILE

Indeed, Tanzania has been hobbled by an economic slump, thanks to a brutal wave of coronavirus that pushed a significant number of businesses to close shops, driving millions of people into poverty.

But as this happens, Ms Zainab came up with various innovative packages to woo domestic tourists, probably a forgotten virgin market, to make her company survive in the face of severe Covid-19 crisis.

Her innovation and sustainable business model have sustained jobs, fought climate change, uplifted and impacted hundreds of marginalised women in the tourism host communities of Tanzania.

Ms Zainab is the founder and CEO of the Tanzania-based ZITA, who is single handedly struggling to address historic injustice compounded by oppression and exploitation towards women in Northern Tanzania’s Maasai community.

She is credited for developing a special window for helping underprivileged Maasai women in her bid to liberate them from poverty, courtesy of the harmful shackles of their traditional norms, by financially empowering them to buy raw materials for making beads and crafts and to sell the products to tourists.

Mrs Zainab Ansell, the founder and Managing Director of Zara International Travel Agency (ZITA), poses for a souvenir picture shortly after receiving the Best Tour Operator in Mountain Climbing Award organised by the Tanzania National Parks recently. PHOTO | ZITA

Through her women’s development centre, hundreds of Maasai women benefit from the tourism industry, as it gives them an opportunity for showcasing and selling beads and carvings along the routes to Tanzania’s most popular tourist sites.

This initiative has grown to become a strong pillar for the women and this particular host community at large.

Zara Tanzania Adventures (Alias Zara Tours) is a local company, founded and established in 1986 located in Moshi, Tanzania, by Ms Zainab, providing high quality travel and tour services in East Africa. Zara has great experience with over 30 years in the Travel and Tourism industry.

Today, Zara has evolved into Tanzania’s largest Kilimanjaro outfitter and one of the largest safari operators in East Africa.  Zara is a one-stop shop, offering experiences and accommodation in Tanzania’s tourism hotspots.

In 2009, the company launched Zara Charity, giving back to marginalised communities in Tanzania and making its footprint in the global movement for sustainable tourism development.

The Tanzania’s former Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Hamis Kigwangalla, hands over one of three awards to the founder of Zara Tours, Ms Zainab Ansell. Zara International Travel Agency scooped the awards at a gala dinner held at Mount Meru Hotel in the northern Tanzania’s safari capital of Arusha. PHOTO | ZITA

Zara charity supports marginalised communities in Tanzania’s tourism host communities addressing health care, education, unemployment and women and children’ challenges.

Zara has been widely recognised for its efforts in promoting Sustainable Tourism Development in Africa, with Zainab being a multi-award winner, having received over 13 local and international awards.

Among them include the World Travel Market (WTM) Humanitarian Award and the Business Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2012), the iconic Tourism for The Future Awards (2015) and African Travel top 100 Women.

Ms Zainab has been recognised and awarded for being the Most Influential Women in Business and Government by CEO Global for her achievements in East Africa’s Tourism and Leisure Sector 2018/2019 during the CEO GLOBAL Pan African Awards; Tanzania National Parks has also recognised Zara Tours as the East African country’s best Tour Operator (2019).


Ms Zainab Ansell is the owner and Director of Zara Tours. Founded in 1986, Zara is the Tanzania’s unrivaled number one Kilimanjaro trekking company and one of the largest safari operators in the region. It organises full service travel experiences in Tanzania and proposes various choices of safaris, including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru and expeditions in the spice islands of Zanzibar. It owns and operates two hotels, two lodges and four tented camps in the Tanzania’s northern tourist circuit. It provides Airport Transfer services, city to city transfer, VIP Cruiser (all equipped with viewing roofs). The company has 88 registered Kilimanjaro guides fluent in English, Germany, French and Spanish and offers regular tour services to groups and corporations from all over the world. The company owns 102, 4X4 Land Rovers, 4X4 mini buses and 4X4 land Cruisers, all equipped viewing roofs.

Zara has impacted thousands of lives in Tanzania, directly employing 1,410 people on both permanent and seasonal basis, sustaining thousands of families in a country with a relatively high unemployment rate.

The Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) CEO, Mr Sirili Akko, said his association is proud of the ZITA founder and CEO for her generous heart to support the underprivileged.


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