What The Royal Tour means to Tanzania

Thursday April 28 2022
Tour pic

President Samia addressing a gathering in Moshi on her way to Marangu in Kilimanjaro region to record a the Royal Tour documentary on September 5, 2021. PHOTO | STATE HOUSE

By Zephania Ubwani

Arusha. The venue has been spruced up, city roads decorated and optimism visibly high.

This is in readiness to the unveiling of The Royal Tour film in the country’s safari capital today.

After the recent launch of the historic documentary in the United States, President Samia Suluhu Hassan will unveil it for the first time on home soil.

There is a clear optimism among the tourism industry stakeholders that the initiative will bring the expected goodies.

Those interviewed are unanimous that it would boost the sector which was nearly being knocked down by Covid-19 in 2020.

“It is a good initiative. It’s a positive thing. Maybe we will start seeing more foreign tourists arriving,” said Mr Aafeez Jivraj, a tour operator.

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He spoke as the landmark Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) is being spruced up to host the event.

Organisers said President Hassan will grace the event, expected to attract hundreds of people, inside AICC’s Simba Hall in the afternoon.

The film, a brainchild of President Hassan, has already premiered in New York on April 18th and Los Angeles on April 21st.

Industry players from Arusha itself and the northern regions are expected to fill the 1,313 capacity Simba Hall.

In order to allow more viewers, screens will be mounted in other rooms and at the convention centre’s lobby.

“We should expect a doubling of the number of foreign visitors in months,” said the excited Ms Violet Mfukofute who runs a car hire business here.

She said the marketing initiative by the President will have a trickledown effect on tourism which lacked aggressive marketing even before Covid-19 struck.

Recent statistics indicated that tourist arrivals to Tanzania tumbled to only about 600,000 in 2020 from upwards of 1.3 million in the previous year.

Signs of recovery started last year when the figure rose to 900,000 with projection of further increase of incoming tourists this year.

The government had projected that tourist arrivals from abroad would hit a record two million in 2020, the year the pandemic set in.

Alais Morindat, a conservation consultant said the launching of the film here was enough sign that Arusha continues to maintain its status as a hub of tourism.

Despite spirited efforts for diversification, the northern regions - Arusha in particular -remains a preferred destination for most tourists coming to Tanzania.

“In tourism, Arusha has many types of attractions, not only wildlife,” he told The Citizen, citing the rich cultural insights of the Maasai and other communities.

Mr Pascal Shelutete, the assistant communication commissioner with the Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) was upbeat about the film.

“It is among efforts being made to hit the country’s target of five million tourists by 2025,” he told journalists at the AICC.

The documentary which featured President Hassan was shot in various places in the country, including Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar and some national parks.

Among the sites featured well in the film are the world-famous Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) and Serengeti National Park and leading destinations.

Mr Shelutete said The Royal Tour will serve as a starting point for aggressive marketing of the country’s tourist attractions through the media.

However, some players in the industry insisted that there was a need to make Tanzania an affordable destination for the tourists.

Mr Jivraj, who runs an outfit called Tanzania Private Select Safaris, said the country could be losing revenues because of the high taxation in the sector.

“There are a lot of levies. Let’s make Mama Samia’s drive realistic by making Tanzania tourism affordable. We will not benefit from levies,” he said.

The local launching of the film has come at a time when tourism, recently battered by Covid-19, is showing signs of recovery.

Hotel owners and tour operators said they were back to business as their hotels and tour operations are getting a good number of clients.

“During the Corona days, our rooms were empty. Now we are getting clients, especially for the meetings,” said Ms Sofia Dallo, a sales officer with Hotel Equator.

Until yesterday, workers were mounting banners in various places around the AICC, along the major roads and around the iconic Clock Tower.

According to the Arusha regional commissioner John Mongela, the president will arrive today through the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA).