Arusha. Swift action by the government to launch a vaccination campaign against Covid-19 has had a positive effect on tourism, it was revealed here yesterday.
Despite being severely battered by the pandemic, the sector recorded a 52 percent increase in the number of visitors from last January to November .
Likewise, this led to a 69 percent rise in revenue collected from the hospitality industry through increased arrivals between January and October 2021.
The figures sharply contrasted the tourism arrivals and revenue collections during same period last year during which the key economic sector was almost brought to its knees.
This was revealed here yesterday by the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Damas Ndumbaro, during the official opening of the five-star Gran Melia hotel.
“The government’s decision to go for vaccination brought trust to the international visitors,” he said as he narrated how Tanzania has withered the worst storms against the pandemic.
The multi-million dollar hotel in the leafy suburb of Arusha was officially inaugurated by President Samia Suluhu Hassan followed by lots of merry making and a lavish party.
Dr Ndumbaro admitted that a firm decision to undertake vaccination not only brought trust among the foreign visitors but also hope for the local industry players.
In July this year, Tanzania which had initially played down Covid-19 vaccines decided to vaccinate its people against the the virus infection as per the World Health Organization (WHO) rules.
The outbreak of the pandemic in early 2020 led to a sharp fall in tourism arrivals from slightly more than 1.5 million in 2019 to about 600,000 last year.
The fall in arrivals triggered an even more devastating drop in revenue collections to $1.7 billion last year from an all time record of $ 2.5 billion in 2019.
Other measures taken by the government to rescue the leading foreign exchange generating sector included a Sh90billion stimulus package issued in October.
Inaugurating the 170-room facility, President Hassan reaffirmed the government’s commitment to put in place a conducive environment for the investors.
These, according to her, include upgrading the tourism -support infrastructures such as the roads, airports and hotels and lodges.
She said Tanzania has allocated 32 percent of its land surface for conservation activities, being the national parks, game reserves, nature forests, wetlands and the like.
She lauded the Al Awadi Investors from the Middle East who put up the hotel which is under the management of the Spain-based Gran Melia hotel chain.
President Hassan said out of the 15 five star tourist accommodation outfits in Tanzania, one third of them belong to the Group which operate a total of 350 hotels in 40 countries.
Mr Gabriel Escarrer Jaume, the CEO of Grain Melia hotel management company, said they had a total of six outfits in Tanzania and Zanzibar, one of them being Gran Melia Arusha.
Arusha regional commissioner John Mongela said Arusha would soon be on the radar as a tourism hub given the surging number of foreign tourists.
His remarks were echoed by the minister for Finance and Planning Mwigulu Nchemba who said many businesses in Arusha which were hard hit by Covid-19 were back to life.
“Arusha is not the same as it was last year, thanks to the recovery seen in tourism,” he said of the region which hosts nearly 80 percent of foreign tourists each year.
Mr Walter Maeda, the regional chairman of the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA) welcomed more hotel investments in the town, including those targeting the celebrities.
However, he said instead of constructing new hotels, the existing ones - and there are dozens of them in Arusha -should be upgraded and refurbished to attain the tourist class.
The opening of the facility attracted the industry captains from within and far as well as representatives of the diplomatic missions in the country.
It was yet another official inauguration of a leading hotel in town after the newly built Snow Crest and refurbished Mount Meru in December 2009 and December 2010 respectively.
The two establishments, then the leading hotels in Arusha, were opened by the then President, Mr Jakaya Kikwete.