Arusha. Hopes are high as the conference boom beckons in Arusha, a stark reality from the recent past.
This comes as tourism, the lifeline of the city and its outskirts, is slowly recovering after it was nearly knocked down by Covid-19.
“This is a blessing to Arusha. Many hotels have been out of business in the last two years,” said Mr Walter Maeda, the chairman of the regional business chamber.
Lately, he observed, he has noticed an increasing number of hotel bookings and clients in classic restaurants “not like in the past few months”.
Mr Maeda is the chairman of Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA) in the region and director of Golden Rose Hotels.
He told The Citizen that the rebound of the meetings sub-sector would assure employment to hundreds of young people rendered jobless by Covid-19 pandemic.
An official of the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) zonal office here said the easing of travel restrictions was not the only factor to the apparent conference boom.
In the past few years, the state-run agency has vigorously promoted a new segment in tourism called MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions).
“We went all over the country; the conference halls and hotels to sell them packages. We are appreciative that our efforts have paid off,” said Mr Ian Mwaimu.
Many hotels here have lately recorded occupancy rates of 15 to 20 percent due to the rising number of visitors and much higher (above 50 percent) for lodges in the national parks.
Beneficiaries of the recent boom are the accommodation facilities in the Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) and thereabout.
“Oh, Yes, the hotels in Arusha are reopening as are the conference facilities,” said Mr Erick Rowberg, the chairman of an Arusba-based IT firm called Habari Node.
The conference boom for the city complemented the recovery of tourism as, he said, 80 percent of the tour operators are reported to be fully booked this year.
This has been witnessed after the recent launching of the Royal Tour film, the Annual Procurement Week and the World Press Freedom Day marked here at the continental level.
These attracted hundreds of delegates from within and outside the country but before the dust settled, Arusha will witness yet another wave of visitors.
Beginning yesterday (Friday), the city is hosting a two-day annual general meeting of the CRDB Bank Plc set to attract about 700 delegates.
From Thursday next week, it will be the turn of the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) to hold their annual general meeting which will last for three days.
There will be about 1,300 members of the legal fraternity for the event which, like the CRDB meeting, will take place at the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC).
From June 1 to 3, the landmark AICC will host 400 delegates for the National Board of Accountants and Auditors (NBAA) who will be here for training.
Another high profile meeting at the AICC will be in August this year when the facility will play host to an annual meeting of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Although no hint has been given on the number of delegates, the event is set to attract many in that the Fifa President Giovanni Infantino is expected to attend.
A task force under regional commissioner John Mongela is already working on the preparations of the event which is also set to boost tourism. Given the popularity of soccer among Tanzanians, the rare football meeting at the continental level to be held here will stir many people, especially the presence of the Fifa boss and other famous names in soccer.
Come October this year, AICC will be the venue of the 65th meeting of the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) that will attract industry players from around the world. Among those expected to be present are tourism ministers from all African countries and key tourism industry players from around the world.
“We have been notified that should it be held in Arusha, it will take place at AICC,” said one senior official on condition of anonymity, noting that they are still awaiting details from the government.
Besides the state-run facility in the heart of Arusha, other facilities are set to benefit from the anticipated visitors’ boom to the country’s safari capital.
Between June 3 and 5, Arusha will play host to an annual tourism fair called Karibu Fair/KiliFair at the Magereza grounds near the airport.
Dubbed East Africa’s number one tourism expo and networking, the event is expected to attract 400 exhibitors from 12 countries and thousands of visitors to the site daily.
Mt Meru Hotel, one of the five star hotels here, will be the venue for 2022 annual conference and triennial general assembly of the Pan African Lawyers’ Union from June 27 to 30.
In November, it will be the turn of another body of the legal fraterning to hold its first ever annual general meeting to take place in Arusha.
Hundreds of delegates from around the region and beyond will be in attendance, according to EALS chief executive officer David Sigano.