Revealed: Key sources driving rise of Tanzania's tourism

What you need to know:

  • Latest National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data shows that the number of tourist arrivals rose to 1,454,920 in 2022 from 922,692 in 2021, with the new figure falling short of the pre-pandemic level by only 55,231.

Arusha. The US is still the biggest source of tourists visiting Tanzania, which is currently conducting a promotional drive to raise the number of arrivals to pre-pandemic levels.

Latest National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data shows that the number of tourist arrivals rose to 1,454,920 in 2022 from 922,692 in 2021, with the new figure falling short of the pre-pandemic level by only 55,231.

A total of 100,600 tourists came in from the US, the highest number of arrivals from a country outside Africa.

Other leading sources were France (100,371), Germany (67,718), the United Kingdom (60,116) and Poland (46,431).

The top five sources in Africa were Kenya (166,324), Burundi (100,851), Zambia (46,787), Malawi (44,438) and Rwanda (44,288).

“Tourist arrivals from the top 10 countries out of 214 were 778,918, accounting for a 53.2 percent share of total arrivals,” NBS says.

Meanwhile, industry players said although the numbers were encouraging, attracting at least five million visitors by 2025 would require much more work to be done.

“We have only two seasons left until 2025. The numbers will certainly keep on rising, but not to that level,” said an Arusha-based tour operator, who asked not to be identified.

Five million arrivals would earn the economy $6 billion, roughly four times what was generated last year when 1.4 million tourists visited the country.

However, Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) officials in Arusha said the target was attainable, and the government was committed to realising the goal.

“Our attention is focused on this target. The government is well prepared, and several measures are being taken to that effect,” they told The Citizen.

These include upgrading of facilities at major airports, notably Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) in Dar es Salaam.

“The airport will be expanded to enable it to handle more aircraft,” said one of the TTB officials.

He added that Tanzania would continue to take part in major international tourism fairs in order to promote itself as a preferred tourist destination in this part of Africa.

The events include ITB Berlin held in the Germany city of Berlin every March, and the World Tourism Market (WTM) held in London every November.

The TTB officials said despite challenges such as Russia’s war in Ukraine, the flow of tourists would be sustained.

The increase in the number of tourist arrivals in Tanzania has largely been attributed to the lifting of Covid lockdowns in source countries.

Others are deliberate efforts to promote Tanzania in overseas markets, notably Western countries.

The Royal Tour documentary unveiled by President Samia Suluhu Hassan last year has been mentioned as a another factor.

Mr Aafez Jivraj, a tour operator operating from Arusha, said he wished the target of five million visitors would be attained come 2025 “since I would be one of the beneficiaries”.

However, he added that there was no sure way of hitting the target due to the unpredictable nature of tourism markets globally.

“It is unpredictable...very unpredictable because of frequent travel warnings by the US, UK and Canada,” he pointed out.

Mr Jivraj added that something new happened every day in the international travel market, which would in one way or another have an effect.

He cited the ongoing war in Ukraine and recent earthquakes in Turkey, one of the emerging markets. Tanzania used to receive a sizeable number of tourists from both Russia and Ukraine before the war broke out in February 2022.

Mr Jivraj also wondered if the country could adequately accommodate five million visitors.

Mr Roman Chuwa, director of Equatorial Safaris, another outfit based in Arusha, welcomed the government’s resolve to meet the ambitious target.

However, he reiterated an appeal often made by tourism businesses in Tanzania to the government to cut various levies and taxes, citing VAT on tourism services imposed in 2016, and the $59 per person per night concession fee for visitors spending nights in national parks.

Mr Chuwa also called for upgrading of facilities at Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA), and lowering of landing fees to enable it to attract more international carriers.

Mr Sirili Akko, executive secretary of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (Tato), was cautious on the prospects of five million tourist arrivals in 2025.

However, he commended efforts made by the government to promote Tanzania in international source markets.

“Promoting the country as the best tourism and investment destination will surely sustain the momentum,” he told The Citizen yesterday.

However, Mr Akko was categorical that there should be collaborative efforts by public and private sector players.

He said the public sector should facilitate the business community and relieve it of the burden of high compliance costs.

This, he added, would in turn be reflected in increased number of arrivals, and would thus be a win for everyone.