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How to ensure tourists come back

Tuesday January 12 2021
tourism pic
By Kasera Nick Oyoo

There is a debate going on: that only 20 percent of foreign tourists to Tanzania tour the country again later. The million-dollar question then arises: why don’t they make a return visit? In my view, there is a business-as-usual attitude among our tourist officials [Watalii watakuja tu. After all, we have Mount Kilimanjaro…]

As we market our fabulous tourist attraction sites, we tend to forget that some of the best advertisers are foreigners who have toured the country – and then go back home where they spread by word of the mouth their experience(s) in Tanzania

Writing in the Chanzo Initiative, commentator Thadei Ole Mushi attributed the low rate of tourists returning to tour Tanzania again to inordinately high costs.

Arguably, high tourism-related costs are a factor.

For example, a Swedish couple who toured Zanzibar last year complained that, it cost them only $200 for three nights at the Murchison/Kabalega Falls in Uganda, that sum was not sufficient to pay for one night at the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania!

On the sensitive subject-matter of high costs, some officials at the Tourism ministry gruffly responded that “Tanzania is not interested low-value, back-pack tourists.”

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There may be a smattering of logic to this argument, as vehemently defended by the-then Tourism minister, Hon Hamisi Kigwangalla.

The logic is that, in so doing so, Tanzania is protecting its flora and fauna from destruction by human encroachment.

Be that as it may – and considering that Tourism is the Number-3 foreign exchange earner – when the chips are down, the left hand begins to question why the right hand is not doing enough to attract more tourists.

The latest concerted efforts at attracting more tourists involved local media editors in a dialogue on what can and should be done to attract more tourists – and for repeated visits/tours later.

There can but be no doubt that the United Republic is home to a gazillion tourist attractions, including Mount Kilimanjaro – at 5,885m (19,308ft) OD the world’s highest stand-alone mountain that was first ascended successfully by the German Geographer Hans Meyer on October 6, 1889.

Then there are the pristine beaches of the Zanzibar Archipelago…

However, the quality of our customer services has never been the best in the world. No wonder, then, that tourists never return to the country.

We are at our worst when it comes to giving visitors our best. From the entry points into the country to tour vans and to the hotels, Tanzanians are not doing our best to sustainably attract tourists from overseas source markets.

You can argue until the chickens come to roost if you have never travelled far and wide in this beautiful country. The Swedish couple we travelled with to Zanzibar told us as much.

Corruption is another major hurdle in the tourism stakes – rife as it is among services providers – and tourists are not spared its adverse outcomes.

We must change our attitude towards potential/prospective tourists from the arrogant ‘Like it or not, you’ll come to see/climb the Kilimanjaro’ to ‘Please, tour Tanzania for an unforgettable life-long experience...’

To that end, we must train and practice; train and practice – and further train and retrain our Tourism staff on exceptional customer services.

Competition for the tourist dollar is cut-throat. Those who offer unforgettable experience would be cashing in, while we in Tanzania gape in astonishment and frustration.

Truth be told: the paying customer is King. And the paying customer cannot be treated the same as is the case with everyone else. It really is simple: we must change our attitude towards out tourists, our paying guests… And there is no substitute for excellent services delivery.

People travel for the experience and an unforgettable experience is not what is captured on camera. It is the way tourists are served, and how their hosts – including you and me – make them feel while they are in our country.

That is how to get return visits by our tourists. Can we GET IT DONE? – as the Mwananchi Communications Limited clarion call directs.