Arusha. Iringa is set to become another tourism hub in the country after Arusha as part of broader efforts to tap the huge potentials of the southern circuit.
Under a massive programme financed by the World Bank, a 'one stop centre' will be established to coordinate all tourism and nature conservation activities in the zone.
"The package would include construction of a centre where tourism and conservation bodies would operate", said the deputy minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Constantine Kanyasu.
These, according to him, would include the Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa), the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (Tawa), the Tanzania Forestry Service (TFS) and others.
Upgrading of Iringa to a new tourism tourism centre is undertaken within the framework of the World Bank-financed project to promote the southern circuit as a leading tourist destination.
The $ 150 million six year Resilient Natural Resource Management for Tourism and Growth Project (REGROW) was launched last year.
It aims to reposition the southern circuit as an engine of growth through tourism development and enhanced conservation of national parks, game reserves and historical sites.
"Iringa would be where tourism promotion, in particular, would be coordinated", Mr. Kanyasu told The Citizen after opening the just-ended Karibu/Kilifair in Arusha.
The ambitious World Bank-supported project also aims to woo potential investors to build hotels and other facilities within the circuit which has its share of tourist attractions.
"The challenge has always been poor roads, shortage of accommodation facilities and, of course, dedicated (tourism) promotion as is the case with the northern circuit", he said.
Tourist attraction in the circuit include the 20,226 square kilometre Ruaha National Park, the largest in the country and Selous Game Reserve (50,000 square km), said to be the largest of its kind in Africa.
Others are the Mikumi, Udzungwa and Kitulo national parks as well as the nature reserves and iconic geographical and historical sites scattered in the zone.
According to Mr. Kanyasu, under the programme four new airstrips would constructed within Ruaha National Park while the road network would undergo major upgrading.
Currently the park, has one major airstrip serving the charter flights. Airstrips within the Selous Game Reserve would also be improved to cater for increased flights.
Introduction of scheduled flights by the national carrier to Iringa airport and construction of Songwe International Airport are also seen as among efforts to open up the southern circuit to tourism.
Speaking during the three-day fair which ended yesterday,Peter Msigwa, the MP for Iringa Urban (Chadema), lauded the government for seriousness shown to promote the southern tourism circuit.
"There is a huge potential yet to be fully tapped to increase revenues for our country", he said, noting that the new push can attract investments in the area.
Philbert Casmir, the NMB Bank senior manager (Acquiring Business) said Iringa suited being the new hub for tourism industry given its strategic location.
"We are in full support of the initiative and we will open up more banking services for this grand project", he said, adding that the bank's new focus was on the zone.