Arusha. The Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (Tato) is seeking to convince the government to ease new Covid-19 restrictions to enable thousands of Israeli tourists to visit the country.
Leading Israeli travel agents, who plan to bring nearly 2,000 tourists to Tanzania’s northern safari circuit in two months from August 2021, have written to Tato, asking the body to persuade the government to lift some restrictions for the tourists on the grounds that they had been vaccinated and hence there was no need for tough restrictions against them.
Based on the global epidemiological situation and the emergence of new variants of viruses that cause Covid-19, Tanzania has elevated and enhanced prevailing preventive measures especially those with regard to International Travel. In updating the Travel Advisory No. 6 of May 3 to version No. 7, effective from May 4, 2021, the government directed that all travellers, whether foreigners or returning residents entering into Tanzania will be subjected to enhanced screening for Covid-19 infection including rapid test.
Tato CEO Sirili Akko said the association was in talks with the government on this matter to get a solution which he thinks will also open doors for other green passport holders from the rest of the world to visit the country.
“Cognizant of tourism business subdued by the pandemic, the expectations is that whoever is bringing business will be received with a red carpet, and there is no reason for Israel travel agents to think of other destinations,” he noted.
The agents, who expect to bring nearly 2,000 holidaymakers in August and September 2021, demand vaccinated tourists from Israel be eligible to access hotels, restaurants, and attractions, without being subjected to test, Mr Akko explained.
Indeed, Ms Tali Yativ, CEO of a top travel agency specialising in premium tourism in Israel, the Spirit Extraordinary Travel, says she plans special two monthly Tel Aviv-Kilimanjaro International Airport charter flights with 56 high-end tourists each in August and September 2021, but only if the government will recognise their green passports.
“We are planning two flights in August and September 2021 exclusively for northern Tanzania safari circuit and our clients will spend eight days in the country, but we are worried about the local Covid-19 pandemic requirements,” Ms Yativ wrote to Tato.
She asked Tato to liaise with the government to allow Israel tourists fully vaccinated with green passports to enter and depart without being subjected to testing.
For Mr Terry Kessel, the managing director for Diesenhaus Travel Israel, who has been bringing tourists in the country for 20 years, also asked Tato to finalise talks with the government to allow them to bring hordes of tourists from Jerusalem.
“Our efforts to bring tourists in Tanzania have recently been frustrated, thanks to the new Tanzania Covid-19 testing regulations. Our clients are considering canceling their travel plans due to the process involved,” Mr Kessel wrote to Tato.
“Without easing the local covid-19 requirements, the ambitious project to bring hordes of Israel tourists will fail.”
Official statistics from the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) show that there were 3,000 tourist arrivals from Israel in 2011. The number increased to 4,635 in 2012 and more than tripled to 15,000 visitors by 2016.
In a span of a few years, Israel has shot to sixth position among leading tourist source markets for Tanzania before the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Tato, under the support of the UNDP, is currently implementing its ‘Tourism Recovery Strategy’ to help spur business, recover thousands of lost jobs, and generate revenue for the economy.
Representing over 300 tour operators, Tato is a leading lobbying agency for the tourism industry in Tanzania which earns roughly $2.05 billion per year for the economy, equivalent to 17 percent of the country’s GDP.