Thursday, May 17, 2018

Tanzania losing tourists appeal, economists warn


By Alex Malanga @ChiefMalanga

Dar es Salaam. Foreign tourists’ average spending in Tanzania has dropped by 43.3 per cent over the last five years.

Last year, an average spending per tourist declined to $161 (about Sh363, 860 at the current exchange rate) from $284 (Sh641, 840) in 2013.

Economists propose that what is needed is for players in the sector to create stimulants to enable tourists to spend more money while in Tanzania.

Last year’s tourism survey findings showed that an overall average length of stay of visitors in Tanzania in 2016 was nine nights, slightly fewer than 10 nights during the past five years.

“To remain appealing for tourists and customers in its markets globally, the government should find new ways to market the destination,” says Repoa principal research fellow Abel Kinyondo.

He said there was a need to enhance transparency in pricing, information on the tourist attraction and conservation measures to attract more tourists.

According to a book titled ‘Making Tourism Work for Tanzania, by Dr Kinyondo and Prof Riccardo Pelizzo, an associate professor of Public Policy and the vice-dean for academic affairs in the Graduate School of Public Policy of Nazarbayev University, Tanzania needs to identify its ideal customers and appeal to them directly, by identifying what are their needs.

“Should Tanzania walk on the same footsteps, it could stand a chance to reach the twin goals of increasing tourist loyalty and finding a new way to market the country as a tourism destination.”

According to Dr Kinyondo, there is a need of enhancing diversification and promotion of tourism products rather than relying on wildlife tourism in order to prolong the length of stay at a destination and increase tourism earnings.

“If things remain as they are in Tanzania, tourists may end up losing hope and give up on Tanzania and simply go to neighboring countries like Kenya and Rwanda or to some other countries which offer similar attractions to those in Tanzania,” warned Dr Kinyondo.

The head of the Communications Unit in the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources, Mr Hamza Temba, cited associated lower average expenditure with increase in tourists who came under non-package tour arrangement. Mr Temba also attributed the performance to significant number of low-spending visitors from neighbouring countries mainly coming to visit relatives and friends.

From 2012 to 2016, the number of arrivals from East Africa increased by 18.88 per cent to 488,660.

A tourist coming to Tanzania does not always have a direct flight, but often has to go through some other countries and catch a connectivity flight, making a trip longer, tiresome, and possibly more expensive.

It has been suggested that the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) work closely with Air Tanzania Corporation and low-cost or charter flights airlines to end poor connectivity.

The top 15 source markets for Tanzania in 2017 accounted for 73 per cent of the total visitors and were mainly from the US, UK, Kenya, India, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Scholars are optimistic that a country’s ability to retain tourists and bring them back to the country is caused by factors such as the perceived quality, safety of the destination, novelty, competitiveness, past experience and image.