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Tour operators, guides missing in tourism services grading criteria

East Africa's tourism value chain standards aim at forging resiliency, competitiveness and safe destination

SUNDAY April 3, 2022

Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania attracted 147,276 tourists between July and October 2021. East African Community is training experts to grade and assess the quality of accommodation, food and beverages in tourist establishments and restaurants across the region. PHOTO | FILE

By Patty Magubira

The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania

The East African Community (EAC) Secretariat is reviewing the Common Classification Criteria for tourism accommodation establishments and restaurants to fill some gaps.

The EAC Principal Tourism Officer, Mr Simon Kiraie, admitted that the criteria overlook services offered by some key players in the industry.

“We are reviewing them to standardise services of tour operators, tour guides and community-based enterprises,” said Mr Kiraie, explaining that the standards would be applied across the tourism value chain in the region.

Mr Kiraie was addressing tourism players during the launching of a training in grading and assessing the quality of accommodation, food and beverage services in Arusha recently.

The two-month training jointly coordinated by the EAC Secretariat, the National College of Tourism (NCT) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism attracts 14 participants from the private sector and 30 others from the public sector.

The East African Community Principal Tourism Officer, Mr Simon Kiraie (Left), addresses the media during the launching of the EAC Regional and Domestic Tourism Media Campaign aimed at boosting consumption of tourism packages and accommodation ahead of last year’s festive season. PHOTO | FILE

Mr Kiraie said the overarching goal of the training was to build resiliency, competitiveness and a safe destination for tourists from across the globe by improving the quality of tourism services regionwide.

“The purpose is to equip new experts with skills that will enable them to become the EAC assessors capable of assessing all hospitality establishments in all EAC partner states save for South Sudan,” he said.

Once the training session is accomplished and examination papers are marked, Tanzania would have new assessors by end of the year, if not sooner, he said.

The Common Classification Criteria for tourism accommodation establishments and restaurants is part of the EAC Tourism Marketing Strategy approved by the Sectoral Council of tourism ministers in July 2021 and adopted by the Council of Ministers in November.

The region has so far classified 906 hotels with Tanzania leading with 383 establishments followed by Kenya 215, Rwanda 176, Uganda 81 and Burundi 51.

The Zanzibar President, Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi (Left), unveils a plague to flag off the East African Community (EAC) Regional Tourism Expo early in October 2021 in Arusha, Tanzania. The international tourism fair is part of the EAC Tourism Marketing Strategy approved by the Sectoral Council of tourism ministers in July 2021 and adopted by the Council of Ministers in November. PHOTO | EAC

Mr Kiraie said the 107 assessors the entire region currently boasts were not enough to classify all tourism establishments.

“Most of the assessors were trained in 2009/10, quite a number of them have either left or cannot offer the classification and assessment service,” he explained.

Officiating at the launching ceremony of the training, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr Francis Michael, said the training was more important now than ever before, given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before the advent of the pandemic in March 2019, the tourism industry used to contribute $4.2 billion to the GDP — equivalent to 17 per cent, 25 per cent of exports, and to 1.6 million direct and indirect jobs, he said.

“As you are aware, the tourism value chain fuels growth of other sectors as well,” added Dr Michael in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Philip Chitaunga, the Director of Tourism with the Tanzania Tourist Board.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Francis Michael, says the Tanzania government intends to expand the avenue for availability of assessors for the growth of the accommodation, food and beverage services to tally with quality of the services. PHOTO | IPPMEDIA

Tourist arrivals nosediving by 59.5 per cent and receipts by 72.5 per cent prompted both the public and the private sectors to devise a guideline that saw the industry not only operating amid the pandemic, but also the country being feted.

The World Tourism and Travel Council awarded Tanzania a safe travel stamp showing the country was safe enough for enthusiasts to travel to.

Thanks to standard operating procedures, recovery plan and training to front-liners for building resilience and raising tourist arrivals by 48.6 per cent and receipts by 76 per cent during the peak of travel restrictions compounded by the pandemic.

Dr Michael said the government intended to expand the avenue for availability of assessors for the growth of the accommodation, food and beverage services to tally with quality of the services.

Besides hospitality, the training will also focus on crosscutting sectors, including environment, occupational safety and health, labour, insurance, safety and security.

Dr Shogo Sedoyeka, the Chief Executive Officer of the Tanzania National College of Tourism (NCT), addresses media practitioners in a past event. She was flanked by the NCT Finance and Administration Director, Mr Bonphase Mwaipaja (L), and the Studies Director, Mr Stephen Madenge. PHOTO | IPPMEDIA

The NCT chief executive officer, Dr Shogo Sedoyeka, said the training was funded by part of the emergency support funds Tanzania raised from the international community to address urgent health, humanitarian and economic costs of the pandemic.

She said the government had through the ministry assigned the college to carry out two phases of training, including upgrading skills of 1,200 key players in the tourism value chain in eight regions of the Tanzania Mainland.

The second phase involved the just launched two-month training of the tourism accommodation establishments and restaurants assessors and a forthcoming one-month training of seven trainers of trainees from the public sector.

She was optimistic the training sessions would boost the number of tourist arrivals to five million by 2025 as stipulated in the Tanzania’s ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi manifestoΩ

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