Sunday July 8, 2018
By Joe Lihundi
Tranquility News Reporter, Arusha
Tanzania has embarked on a crackdown on unlicensed tour operators who are coning foreign tourists visiting the natural-resource richest East African country.
The Tanzania government admits that the con men are tainting the image of the country’s hospitality industry and discouraging licensed tour operators they unfairly compete with.
Major General Gaudence Milanzi, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, says the government will bring to book all those caught committing the crime.
“Severe punishment awaits the bogus tour operators,” warns Major Gen Milanzi in a statement he issued recently.
Statistics though shows there are over 1,000 tour operators in the East Africa’s second economic hub, but only about half of them are licensed. Over 500 others waylay unsuspecting foreign tourists to prey them.
Mr Faustine Mdessa, the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) regional manager for Arusha, confirms that 1,203 tour operators though have Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), only 517 comply.
Since the Tanzania Tourism Business License fee stands at $2,000, the country is losing $1.8 million to the unlicensed tour operators each year.
“Those, who don’t comply do not only steal from us all, but also create unfair competition to the industry and the entire nation,” the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) chief executive officer, Mr Sirili Akko, says.
Mr Wilbard Chambulo, the TATO Chairman cautions, in turn, saying the organisation will from now on “neither sympathise with nor take responsibility for a tourist who will face challenges in his transactions with non-TATO member companies”.
“We have swiftly acted to rescue all victims in good faith and on humanitarian grounds for the sake of protecting destination Tanzania in the past,” Mr Chambulo says.
“For instance, we assisted some victims in recovering money and sending back to them in their respective countries,” he explains. TATO has also covered costs of accommodation, transport and meals for several days for other victims.
“It is in the best interest of TATO to see tourists using credible companies for their best experiences in Tanzania,” he insists.
One of the victims, Mr Curtis Crawford, who had successfully recovered his money through TATO, urged foreign tourists bound for Tanzania to research tour firms they choose.
“I had a terrible travel experience with a Tanzanian tour operator (name withheld), I warn other tourists not to use bogus tour operators,” he says.
“The man who helped me get my money back from the tour operator was Sirili Akko (CEO) of TATO,” he recalls.
Save for the bogus tour operators, Mr Crawford hails Tanzanian tour guides, porters and cooks for being knowledgeable, professional and hardworking.
Tourism is Tanzania’s largest foreign exchange earner, contributing an average of $2 plus billion annually, which is equivalent to 25 per cent of all exchange earnings, the government data indicate.
Tourism also contributes to more than 17 per cent of the national gross domestic product, creating more than 1.5 million jobs.