Tanzania has moved secretly and hiked the entry fees on its historical sites by 900 percent, a move not generally well greeted by the tourism fraternity.
Now, tourists wishing to sample Tanzania’s leading historical sites will have to cough $18 per person, per day, up from previous $2, as a new set of tariffs became effective early last month.
The sector expects to bring in $500,000 this year, up from previous $200,000, a massive increase, cementing its position as one of Tanzania's largest foreign exchange earners.
Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Ezekiel Maige signed this directive as an amendment of rules, under the Antiquities (User Fees Amendment) Rules, 2011 on December 15, last year, with an eye to boost its contribution to the economy.
Tanzania’s Director of Antiquities department the agency responsible for the historical sites, Dr Donatius Kamamba says that the idea behind the fee increase is to see the sub-sector bolster its contribution to the national economy.
“We have nearly 500 potential historical sites at the moment, but the industry contributes merely $200,000 annually. We have raised the entry fee in a bid to make the sub-sector contribute meaningfully to the economy,” Dr Kamamba noted.
Some of Tanzania’s prime historical sites include Olduvai Gorge, Laetoli Footprints, Isimila Stone Age site, Engaruka, Kaole, Kunduchi, Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara ruins. Others are Bagamoyo, Kilwa Kivinje and Mikindani. Traditional settlements such as Kalenga in Iringa and Bweranyange in Kagera and natural features and structures such as Mbozi Meteorite, Amboni Caves and Kondoa rock art shelters, which are all grouped under the change of rules.
However, the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) argues that the sudden increase in the fee rate – coming as it does in the middle of the tourism season – does not create a conducive business environment for the tourism industry.
“To change fees for tourist safaris in the middle of the season is against good business practice, and could seriously damages the reputation of Tanzania tourism operators in the international tourism market,” says TATO chief executive secretary, Mustapha Akuunay.
It also argues that the decision inflicts serious damage upon the image and credibility of Tanzania in the international tourism market.
“The reputation of Tanzania as a dependable and stable tourist destination is seriously compromised by the move,” he declared, maintaining that local tourism operators are seen to be unreliable and cannot be trusted regarding the prices they offer and quote for safaris.
TATO executive officer, Siril Akko says he personally felt that the change in tariffs with immediate effect was not in the best interest of the tourism industry. “They should have consulted, and if at all, give long notices of the rise in fees to cater for it in quotations and on our pricing," he emphasized.
Mr Akko further says that key tourism stakeholders hold the government of being insensitive to observing consultative dialogue and giving maximum notice of such tariff increases.
Elifuraha Laltaika, a law lecturer at Tumaini University Makumira (TUMa) says the government is not acting fairly in raising fees to visit historical sites without involving the industry players who could tell it when would be the convenient time for a large increase in the fees.
With a growth rate of 12 percent for the last four years, tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries, contributing 17.2 percent of the GDP and 41.7 percent of the country's foreign exchange inflows in the last five years.
Available records show that Tanzania earned $4,987.5 million from the tourism sector in the last four years. The industry employs nearly 200,000 local people directly.
Renowned for its relative calm in the region, the nation of about 40 million people targeted earnings of about $1.5 billion annually by attracting 1 million tourists per annum starting from last year.
Observers say there are still great prospects for expansion and growth in this sector. There is a huge demand for more hotels, more trucks, more restaurants, more local and international flights, and more tour operators.
Tourists come to Tanzania to enjoy the beaches on its eastern coastline and the Zanzibar archipelago, its national parks such as the Selous in the southeast, the Serengeti in the north, and to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.