CAG Kichere identifies actions needed to boost tourism

What you need to know:

  • Tourism, which accounts for more than 17 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and 25 percent of foreign earnings, depends on attractions such as national parks, game reserves, and coastal areas.

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s efforts to attract visitors may be accelerated if the government addresses some key challenges, which the Controller and Auditor General, Charles Kichere, said need deliberate action to unlock the potential of tourism.

Some of the challenges include inadequate funding for tourism promotion, low accommodation capacity in the national parks, the wide spread of invasive species beyond the control of the national parks, frequent power outages that disrupt park operations, and encroachment of national park boundaries.

Mr Kichere outlined the challenges in the annual general report on public authorities audit for the financial year 2022/23 which was published yesterday.

“Despite the increase in the number of tourists compared to previous years, my review found that tourist attractions faced challenges and uncertainties that needed deliberate actions to address them,” he said.

Tanzania targets to attract five million visitors and generate $6 billion by 2025.

However, the sector attracted 1.8 million visitors in 2023, with the sector generating $3.37 billion, according to the report.

Tourism, which accounts for more than 17 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and 25 percent of foreign earnings, depends on attractions such as national parks, game reserves, and coastal areas.

Stakeholders suggested there is a need to diversify the type of tourism and promote other destinations, including places such as Kilwa and Nyerere National Parks, which are not popular.

The CAG report focused on three key institutions for promoting tourism, including Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa), the Tanzania Tourism Board (TTB), and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA).

Low promotion budget

Mr Kichere said TTB has a Digital Command Centre that was completed in 2022 at a total cost of Sh1.06 billion to promote Tanzania’s tourist attractions in a more modern digital way by positioning the attractions at a global level for increased visibility through stream media such as X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook.

However, the centre was not operationalized even though it was completed twenty months ago.

Mr Kichere said the board budgeted Sh228.52 million in 2022/23 for the centre’s operationalization, but the funds were not released by the government.

He also noted that the TTB budget for local and international market promotion was Sh4.5 billion in 2022/23 but the government released only Sh3.15 billion, while Sh1.35 billion was not released.

“I recommend that the Tanzania Tourist Board, in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, follow up with the Ministry of Finance to ensure the approved budget for tourism promotion is released to implement the planned events and operationalization of the Digital Command Centre,” he said.

Encroached park boundaries

The report found that human activities were overlapping the boundary demarcations of the Manyara and Arusha national parks.

The report stated that 10 km2 of Lake Manyara National Park was encroached upon by villagers, while a lodge in Arusha National Park carried non-tourism within the park.

Mr Kichere said he observed small sheds being constructed for the purpose of planting new trees within the park without the consent of Tanapa, while a garden around the lodge kitchen area was planted with non-indigenous plants such as bananas, vegetables, and sweet potatoes.

Low accommodation

The report revealed that the maximum required bed capacity for tourists was 30,825, while the existing bed capacity for all 22 national parks operated by Tanapa was 10,094, equivalent to 33 percent of the required bed capacity.

Tanapa has been promoting the investment sites in the parks, but so far only four investors have initiated the investment process in Saadani National Park, according to the report.

Mr Kichere said the shortage of accommodation could contribute to missed opportunities to host more visitors and limit the potential to earn additional revenue through loyalties and levies from the hotels and operators of tented camps.

“I recommend that Tanapa expedite the process of enhancing the bedding capacity at the parks through soliciting funds for development from the government and attracting potential investors for hotel and camp site constructions to curb the reported shortage,” he stated.

Speaking about the accommodation, the Hotels Association of Tanzania executive director, Mr Kennedy Edward, said that to solve the challenge of the number of beds, there is a need to change the type of tourism and promote new attractions so that investors can be attracted.

“Beds are few during the high season, but in the low season they are available. So there is a need to promote other destinations so that those interested in certain tourism can get access, for example, beach tourism,” he said.