Tanzania's tourism hits record 1.8 million visitors as gold exports soar

What you need to know:

  • In a significant boost to the economy, tourism emerged as the country's top foreign exchange earner, generating $3.37 billion in revenue in 2023.

Dar es Salaam. The tourism industry rebounded last year as tourist arrivals increased by 24.3 percent to reach a record high of 1.8 million visitors, the Bank of Tanzania said.

Tourism is the country’s top foreign exchange earner, generating $3.37 billion in revenue in 2023, followed by gold, whose exports increased by seven percent to $3 billion, and transportation, whose receipts increased by almost 30 percent to $2.4 billion.

Traditional exports, which are largely made up of agricultural produce such as coffee, tea, and sisal, increased by 24 percent to $953.3 million, the central bank’s monthly economic review for January 2024 shows.

The rise of these three economic activities significantly contributed to the rise of exports.

According to the central bank report, the export of goods and services exhibited a rising trend throughout 2023, increasing by 16.6 percent to $13.98 billion in the year ending December 2023 from the level recorded in the preceding year.

“The performance was largely contributed by tourism receipts, gold, and traditional exports,” states the report released last week.

Non-traditional goods exports saw a moderate growth of 4.3 percent to $6.32 billion, with a notable surge observed in gold exports.

Gold exports reached $3.0 billion, up from $2.8 billion in the previous year, driven by both volume and price effects.

The increase was also registered in exports of oil seeds and horticulture, particularly edible vegetables, according to the Bank of Tanzania, while the export of traditional goods edged up to $953.1 million from $766.5 million, largely driven by exports of coffee and tobacco.

Commenting on the trend, an economics lecturer at the University of Dodoma (Udom), Dr Letengano Mwinuka, said that the recent report underscores the effectiveness of government strategies towards enhancing the tourism sector, citing an example of the Royal Tour documentary, which was released in 2022.

Dr Mwinuka highlighted the government's commitment to achieving its goal of attracting five million tourists by 2025.

While acknowledging that the target has not been met yet, he noted that the sector's performance is promising in generating foreign exchange.

“While sectors like mining and agriculture have shown progress, it's imperative to closely monitor tourism's contribution to foreign exchange reserves. There is a need to prioritise information and communication technology to ensure the tourism industry remains competitive and aligned with evolving technologies to sustain its growth trajectory,” he said.

The Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (Tato) chief executive officer, Mr Sirili Akko, said consistent marketing has significantly contributed to the increase in tourist arrivals.

Service receipts amounted to $6.28 billion in 2023, up from $4.76 billion in 2022, driven by travel (tourism) and transport receipts.

The surge in travel receipts reflects the rebound of the tourism sector, the central bank said.

On the other hand, imports of goods and services declined to $16.058 billion, down from $16.67 billion in the previous year, primarily driven by a decrease in the goods import bill, particularly white petroleum products.

Imports of machinery, industrial transport equipment, motor cars, and wheat grain increased, although not sufficiently to offset the decline of white petroleum products.

The import of refined white petroleum products declined to $2.73 billion from $3.3 billion in the previous year on account of the price effect.