FRIDAY March 18, 2022
By Adam Ihucha
A gleam of hope seems to have finally dawned on Zanzibar tourism, as seasoned player in the industry Simai Mohammed Said has been appointed Minister for Tourism and Antiquities.
In a surprise reshuffle a fortnight ago, Zanzibar President Hussein Ali Mwinyi picked Simai to spearhead the archipelago’s mission of unlocking the full potential of tourism, offering prospects to the industry players, whose confidence is pinned to him.
Dr Mwinyi apparently appointed Mr Simai on basis of competence, skill, dedication and noble roles he played in Zanzibar’s tourism in his latest efforts to spur the industry to contribute substantially to the Isle’s clove-dependent economy.
Mr Simai, a tourism specialist turned politician, is regarded as an unsung inclusive tourism hero who had steered Zanzibar to become the best example of beach and cultural tourism destination, pulling crowd of tourists, thanks to Sauti za Busara Festival, among his other initiatives.
The former board member of Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors (ZATI) and Chairman of the famous Sauti za Busara Festival, had put Zanzibar on top of the finest beach and cultural tourism destinations in the world.
“Mr Simai is the right man, at the right moment and right regime. I knew him for so many years, no doubts his demeanor will shape the tourism industry in Zanzibar big time,” the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) CEO, Mr Sirili Akko, told e-Turbonews.
Mr Akko said the task ahead of the youthful Minister is to strategically link Zanzibar Isles and Tanzania Mainland to ride on Tanzania’s rich wildlife advantage in a bid to sell its beaches to tourists looking for a combined beach-bush package.
“Tourism is a new frontier to move Zanzibar out of poverty because it is a key employer and a sub-sector with very long value chain.
“Zanzibar Isles and Tanzania Mainland have a very key synergy, as we don’t have the similar products, meaning there is complementarity of the products,” Mr Akko noted.
Indeed, if all works well, tourists after visiting Tanzania Mainland’s wildlife-rich attractions would obviously go to the Zanzibar Isles for beach relaxation.
The Zanzibar Archipelago, situated in the Indian Ocean, 15 miles off the coast of Tanzania, is a breathtaking spot to escape from the world.
Tourists enjoy clear, turquoise-blue water; shallow sandbars perfect for wading; and many small, nearly deserted islands virtually unvisited by holiday makers.
The visitors can also explore the World Heritage Site of Stone Town, Zanzibar City’s old quarters. Or just go beach to beach between tiny fishing villages — each better than the next.
“I will strive to accelerate growth in the tourism industry,” Mr Simai pledged shortly after swearing in before President Mwinyi.
Cementing close relationships between the government and tourism investors, spearheading improvement of quality of hospitality services rendered to tourists, and enforcing local content concept, are, but his few priorities.
“My greatest interest is to see tourists consuming the domestically produced products. For me, this is an effective mechanism of transferring tourists’ dollars to the common folks in Zanzibar. You call it inclusive tourism,” Mr. Simai told e-Turbonews in an exclusive interview.
The Minister cited exploration of new tourism markets and promotion of new tourist attractions through diplomatic missions as among key areas of his focus.
Mr Simai also plans to shift focus from mass to quality tourism as he targets wealthy visitors.
Tourism is a significant source of income for Zanzibar – largest source of foreign exchange, contributing about 27 per cent to the GDP and over 80 per cent of foreign direct investment (FDI).
In 2020, Zanzibar received 528,425 tourists, fetching the country $426 million in foreign exchange.
Tourism accounted for 82.1 per cent of FDI in Zanzibar whereby an average of 10 new hotels were being built in the Isles each year at an average cost of $30 million each.
Data from the Hotel Association Zanzibar shows the amount each tourist spends in the Isles has also gone up from an average of $80 per day in 2015 to $206 in 2020.