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CROSSROADS : The need to up skills in the “tourist paradise”

Sunday July 23 2017

Zanzibar government and the private sector for years have been in agreement that development of tourism sector is key for economic growth.

For nations with tourism attractions, the sector is most of the time described as having “lowest-hanging fruit” needed to create jobs and reduce poverty.

Here I am talking about the ripple effect of tourism. Apart from the noticeable contribution to the GDP, indirectly it boosts other sectors. A good example is agriculture and transport, which directly benefit when we have many tourists coming over.

The importance of the tourism sector cannot be gainsaid. Zanzibar Tourism Development policy and Master Plan seeks to grow tourism by 9 to 10 per cent by 2020 and make the archipelago one of the top tourism destinations of the Indian Ocean. Known as tourist paradise or Spice Islands, Zanzibar was once a centre of slave trade (too bad), but can it now become the centre of tourism (beach, cultural, music, etc) for the Indian Ocean?

Many a time, we came up with great plans, but did we make them succeed? For Zanzibar tourism to work, the issue of skilled labour needs not be overemphasized.

A study commissioned last year by Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors (Zati) with the support of the Business Environment Strengthening for Tanzania (Best-Dialogue) found out that almost 60.6 per cent of foreigners employed in the isles private sector are in “food and accommodation sub sector.”

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This could portend that “majority of employment in the tourism sector are dominated by foreigners.” Even as there is a need for further studies to ascertain the figures, it is paramount to put in place mechanism that would ensure more locals are trained to serve the industry.

According to Zati, shortage of skilled labour is one of the obstacles that hinders the growth of the sector. Service quality and human resource development in the industry are determinants of competitiveness in many industries.

A study by Issa Shaaban Moh’d, which is titled “The Roles of Tourism Industry in Socio-Economic Development of Zanzibar, A Case Study of Zanzibar Town (2016)” notes there are government supported programmes that offers development and delivery of community based training in tourism related skills. I am also sure there are many other government efforts to up skills not only in tourism but in other sectors as well. While the cry by the industry for lack of adequate skilled labour is real, we should note that this problem is not only in Zanzibar.

In South Africa, they are also lamenting about “skills disconnect” that need to be addressed in tourism and hospitality. What we need to do for Zanzibar in particular and Tanzania in general is to work hard- the government and private sector, to ensure that tourism boom is not hindered by lack of workers.

Zati is working with ILO on apprenticeship programme for the hotel industry. We need such creative ways to change the situation for the better. We are not short of people as a nation. We are only short of adequate skills. Those skills have to be developed to meet the short term and long term growing demand in the industry.

On another note, Tanzania has been declared Africa’s best safari destination by SafariBookings.com a respected online marketplace. I hope the public and private sector will take advantage of this and promote destination Tanzania to higher heights.

I wish Tanzania Tourism Board would place some huge billboards at strategic places in Europe and America shouting that we are the best safari destination in Africa.

Some advertising in the international media would also do. Maybe the time for us is now, we start using Tanzanian super stars when they go abroad to market our attractions. An endorsement by international stars would do as great.

Saumu Jumanne is an assistant lecturer, Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE)