AnalysisTravel

Tanzania’s travel, tourism docket is in the nick of time

The ruling party has ordered the ministry to fetch $6 billion a year by 2025, up from over $2 billion it currently garners from foreign tourists

SATURDAY April 22, 2023

Tanzania is home to major tourists attractions ranging from Serengeti National Park to Mount Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and Ngorongoro Crater. PHOTO | FILE

By Patty Magubira

The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania

An ambitious goal of the Tanzania’s ruling party is denying its government bureaucrats of sleep, The Tranquility News has learnt

Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) pledges in its 2020 General Election Manifesto to spur tourism for the industry to create meaningful jobs and leapfrog sister economic sectors.

Come 2025, CCM says, the industry should attract five million foreign tourists, who will leave behind $6.6 billion coupled with massive multiplier effects specifically targeting women and youth.

Tourism is estimated to contribute $2.6 billion a year to the national economy and 25 per cent to the national foreign exchange reserve.

Official data shows the industry also creates 1.5 million jobs and contributes over 17 per cent of national gross domestic product (GDP).

The Tanzania: Royal Tour film drew 1.7 million tourists in February 2023, a record that has never been attained during the month since independence,” Mr Mohamed Mchengerwa, the Tanzania’s Tourism Minister.

How realistic is the pledge by the ruling CCM to the Tanzanian body of voters in the advent of the COVID- 19 pandemic, it remains to be seen.

The government has, however, been attempting to meet the target, albeit with a myriad of challenges, in addition to the pandemic.

The Tanzania President, Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan, herself left her Magogoni State House premises office to assume the role of a tour guide to Peter Greenberg.

Unlike other foreign visitors, the lucky US tourist cum photojournalist went to Tanzania to kill two birds using one stone.

The former travel editor with NBS’s Today, CNBC and MSNBC actually became the country’s President’s Boss in the production of a series of the Tanzania edition of The Royal Tour documentaries.

Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan (Left) guides Royal Tour photojournalist Peter Greenberg during the filming of a documentary dubbed Tanzania: The Royal Tour. PHOTO | FILE

The price Peter had to pay for Dr Samia to swallow the pride of a Head of State of one of few godsend-rich countries globally was the opportunity for her to showcase cultural, wildlife heritage and an array of investment prospects in store for his audience, if not for the rest of the world.

Dr Samia successfully presented in the film a 360-degree of one of the world’s finest safari destinations with both the most sought-after sites, namely Serengeti, Mount Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and the unexplored ones south of the county.

All tourists’ roads led to Tanzania immediately after travel restrictions imposed on them started being lifted globally, thanks to the strategic film unveiled in New York, US, in April 2022.

Massive travel booking enquiries trickling in from the US and other English-speaking and Scandinavian countries were registered, agents confirmed.

“Barely two months since the launching of the film, our subscribers have recorded 6,405 safari booking enquiries, all craving for the Tanzania destination alone,” the East African Travel Deals Managing Director, Mr Mikael Morlandee, was quoted as saying then.

Chinese envoy to Tanzania Chen Mingjian hands over a $1 million symbolic cheque to Tanzania Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Mohamed Mchengerwa recently. The money will be spent on strengthening conservation and mitigating effects of climate change on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. PHOTO | FILE

The Tanzania Tourism Minister, Mr Mohamed Mchengerwa, too admits the far-reaching impact of the film in stimulating the country’s tourism industry.

“The Tanzania: Royal Tour film drew 1.7 million tourists in February 2023, a record that has never been attained during the month since independence,” he noted.

Mr Mchengerwa said another record in the country’s history since independence was convincing over 2.4 million local tourists to sample sites amid the pandemic.

Nonetheless, the beneficiary of the fourth changings of the guard at the helm of the ministry since last General Election is apparently not that happy with the achievements, saying they do not reflect at all the multiplicity and the uniqueness of tourist attractions the country is endowed with. His predecessors were Dr Hamis Kigwangalla, Dr Damas Ndumbaro and Dr Pindi Chana.

“We should not be complacent with what we get, we won’t have a better time for spinning the growth wheel of the industry than now,” said Mr Mchengerwa at separate fora at which he recently officiated in Arusha, Tanzania.

Tanzania’s Tourism Minister Mohamed Mchengerwa in a tet a tet conversation with the Chairperson of Tanzania Association of Women Tour Operators Elizabeth Mwakjila shortly before the minister launched the association in Arusha, Tanzania, on Friday April 14, 2023. PHOTO | FILE

According to Mr Mchengerwa, the industry abounds with matchless natural resources and a good political will, as the Tanzania Head of State understands its value and strength to contribute massively to the national foreign exchange reserve and the economy at large.

“Had other countries been gifted with such attractions, the world would not sleep, surprisingly we are asleep,” the minister observed.

With the five million foreign tourists’ arrivals by 2025 ‘seemingly a tall order’ in his mind, the minister said he and his top team at the ministry would do all what it took to wake up front liners in the industry, which, to a large extent, is in the hands of the private sector.

About two years and a half to the deadline, Mr Mchengerwa admits the CCM target is denying him and his team of sleepless nights in their attempt to plead with players, particularly in the private sector, to meet, if not to exceed the goal.

The minister cannot wait to see the industry attained not only the five million foreign tourists mark, but also five to seven million local visitors.

Tanzania National Parks Conservation Commissioner William Mwakilema signs one of the contracts meant for opening up tourist attractions south of the country as Tourism Minister Mohamed Mchengerwa (not in picture) witnesses. Mr Mchengerwa believes the untapped southern regions’ tourist sites will go a long way in meeting the ruling party’s pledge of raising over $6 billion by 2025. PHOTO | FILE.

“It can be done provided we step up education efforts, create lucrative packages for teachers, pupils and students, office workers and ordinary citizens; and more importantly we change our mindsets in this business,” suggested Mr Mchengerwa, adding:

“We’re aware of the rigid environment players are operating in, we’re mulling over revisiting policies, laws, rules and regulations governing the industry for them to deliver.

“Elsewhere, conservation and tourism require players to work round the clock, which calls for wholesale reforms in Tanzania.”

Mr Mchengerwa noted that among areas the country had to heavily invest in for the industry to compete was service provision, urging the private sector to improve hospitality, specifically trustworthiness, to catch up with some neighbouring countries.

He said Tanzania had inherited systems he thought had partly led the industry to remain a sleeping giant, citing women as deserving to play a big role in the male-dominated tourism business.

Zainab Ansell, founder of the Zara Tours, was declared Tanzania’s Influential Queen in 2023 for creating employment opportunities. Zainab is among few women calling the shot in decision making in the Tanzania’s tourism industry. PHOTO | FILE

“We’ve to improve the way we offer our services, good deeds to tourists pay more than advertisements do,” he said.

On its part, the ministry would apply the carrot and stick theory by becoming bighearted to players and at the same time not tolerant to any of them once jointly created policies, laws, rules and regulations were infringed.

Carrot

“We’re zooming around the country to listen at and resolve each player’s nuisances, including crosscutting ones, such as on issuance of visas,” he said.

The ministry was also mulling over putting up friendly environment at tourists’ sites, including Arusha for the city to retain visitors returning from safaris.

The city, which is considered as the country’s tourism hub, will see streets lights and road cameras installed and a state-of-the-art tourism centre constructed to host tour operators’ offices, cultural tourism drives and four to five-star entertainment joints, among others. Beach tourism along the Indian Ocean coast, lakes and big rivers would also be refurbished.

Members of hunter-gatherer ethnic group — Hadzabe — search for a prey at Lake Eyasi in Karatu District, Arusha Region, Tanzania. Arusha though is considered as the country’s tourism hub for being surrounded by many attractions, lacks sites for visitors to stay in the city after sampling godsends at its arm’s length. PHOTO | FILE

Stick

Days of tourism players avoiding paying taxes and committing other vices were numbered, cautioned the minister, as he called on suspects to abide by policies, laws, rules and regulations governing the industry.

“If we’re to compete, we also have to conform to the UNWTO guidelines, among other international requirements, there is no shortcut,” he stressedΩ

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