Players point out more factors for tourism expansion

Tourists admire animals in Serengeti National Park. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • The fair brought in a record of exhibitors compared to pre-Covid 19 events, with increased number of foreign exhibitors.

Arusha. Perhaps there are few signs than the recently held Expo here that indicated Tanzania’s tourism was on a recovery path.

The fair brought in a record of exhibitors compared to pre-Covid 19 events, with increased number of foreign exhibitors.

It was normal that the Magereza Fair grounds near the Arusha Airport was a beehive of activity given the number of exhibitors.

Interestingly, the show was spiced by the light planes (a few metres above) - landing and taking off - enough indication that the tourism season has arrived.

Jonas Ntiyakunze Ndunguru, a budding entrepreneur in the tourism sector, was among hundreds of those who thronged the venue.

Unlike scores of others who exhibited their tourism products inside the pavilions which filled the grounds, Mr Ndunguru was promoting his while mobile.

“The recovery is in good is now in better shape. There are many flights coming in with more tourists,” he told The Citizen.

He said some of the tour operators like him could not get bookings for their clients for the June to December 2022 tourism season.

He attributed the promising signs to a raft of measures taken recently by the government in collaboration with the other industry players.

These included, among others, the removal of PCR tests for Covid-19 at the entry and exit border points and other unnecessary restrictions.

Mr Ndunguru, who owns a van for taking tourists to the sites, said tourism industry players should embark on deliberate efforts to reach out to the source markets.

These should include, among others, organising Karibu or Kili fairs outside the country, specifically in key tourism source countries.

Dr Emmanuel Sulle, one of those who thronged the fairgrounds, said the Expo was one of the commendable measures to market the country’s tourism potentials.

Tourism marketing, he argued, should not be left to the tourism department alone “but all ministries, local communities and all other stakeholders linked to it”.

Dr Sulle is the coordinator for East Africa and Horn of Africa for ICCA Consortium and is based in Arusha, the country’s tourism hub.

Although he praised the recently launched Royal Tour film, he argued that the initiative can achieve a lot if it is complemented by other efforts nationally and locally especially the improvement in the hospitality industry and infrastructure – roads and tourists’ safety and security.

According to him, there are challenges for “the wider infrastructure” in Tanzania which are supposed to facilitate tourism.

“There is noise pollution everywhere from churches, bars in residential areas....some hotels have closed due to noise,” he pointed out.

Dr Sulle said the local tourism industry promoters should borrow a leaf from Cape Town in South Africa; a clean city with all aspects of a conducive environment.

“It’s a rapid recovery,” declared an Arusha-based creative publisher when reached on his views on prevailing optimism on the sector recently hit by Covid-19.

“This brings more oxygen to the (tourism) industry after it was nearly being suffocated by the virus,” he said as he moved around the pavilions.

However, a source who preferred his name not mentioned in the press, suggested a review of the hotel rates so as to attract more tourists.

Oshumu Mollel, a tourism officer with a wildlife management area (WMA) in Longido District cautioned that Covid-19 which nearly flattened Tanzania’s tourism was not yet over.

“In fact, there are indications that the pandemic is picking up although the situation is not as appalling as it was early last year,” he said.

He argued that the government should continue to take a central role in spearheading promotion of the country’s tourism sector.

He called for reduction of prices in the hotels, local transport and other areas such as the entry fees to the parks “in order to attract more visitors”.

Mr Mollel challenged the tourism players, from the Immigration officers at the airports to tour guides and hotel receptionists to treat the visitors well “to make them come back”.

Victor Mollel who runs a tourism business called Ujumbe Ink, concurred that signs of recovery were there due to increased bookings and reservations for visitors from abroad.

“Tourism is bouncing back after Covid-19. Those visitors who cancelled their trips due to the pandemic are now coming,” he said.

Ujumbe Ink, which does a raft of tourism promotion activities including publishing, closed down in 2020 after the outbreak of the pandemic.

However, he decried the taxation system which he described as not conducive for tourism and other businesses.

He appealed to the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to centralise the taxation so that all tourism-related taxes are paid once.

According Mr Mollel, there are about 30 taxes in the tourism sector, some of which need to be reviewed; consolidated into fewer taxes and others scrapped.

He said he was not sure if the goal of attracting five million foreign tourists into Tanzania by 2025 would be attained.

“If we have that dream, we have to change, our mindset and work attitude must change. We have to be flexible,” he told The Citizen.

He regretted that the tourism sector was still being operated through the policies and laws formulated in the 1990s.

In pre-Covid era, the tourist arrivals to Tanzania had reached more than 1.5million visitors, generating an all time high revenue of $ 2.5billion in 2019.

The figures of incoming foreign tourists tumbled to a mere 620,000 in 2020 - the peak of the pandemic - and about 900,000 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.

One of the measures taken by the government to rescue the leading foreign exchange generating sector included a Sh90 billion ‘stimulus package’ issued in October 2021.

During the just-ended tourism fair in Arusha, the government concurred the increased arrivals has been boosted by easing of Covid -19 travel restrictions; regionally and internationally.

The recovery has also been noted in the entire East African Community (EAC) where tourism is a key economic sector in export trade.

The minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Pindi Chana said efforts have also been taken to promote domestic tourism for the locals and the expatriate staff.

According to her, the country registered 788,933 domestic tourists last year compared to 562,549 registered in 2020.

The chairperson of the Zanzibar Tourism Board, Mr Rahim Bhaloo, said the Isles and the entire Tanzania was ready to receive visitors from abroad due to the improved security situation.

“The safety and security of tourists is assured so are the facilities already in place,” he said, noting that Zanzibar has established a tourist police unit, among a raft of measures.