Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Ezekiel Maige has pledged to work closely with the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) to the best interests of the tourism industry.
The pledge was prompted by TATO members highlighting issues of great interest to the growth of the tourism industry during their meeting with the minister late last week.
The problem of negative attitudes among national park wardens taking tourists to designated areas was ranked high among issues tabled before the minister.
Tour operators also underlined the need for them to have representatives in sector-specific boards like the Tanzania Tourist Board, the Tanzania National Parks Authority and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority in order to channel their views.
“I will be meeting you regularly to get views on how best the government can address issues of your working environment so as to take tourism to the next level,” Maige told over 100 TATO members in the meeting.
Maige also vowed to take all measures necessary to ensure that negative elements in the tourism delivery agencies would be cleared so as to improve the image of the sector.
Tour operators also registered their grave concerns over the recent move by the government to raise historical sites entry fees by 900 percent, saying it may seriously hurt that aspect of the tourism industry.
Now, tourists wishing to sample Tanzania’s leading historical sites will have to cough $18 per person, per day, up from previous $2, as the new set of tariffs became effective since February 1, 2012.
In his response, Maige expressed surprise at the lack of consultation saying that officials in the ministry gave him the impression that all stakeholders had been consulted, which presumably included TATO over the reviewing of the fees.
“Before signing the fee increase proposal, I asked my subordinates if they consulted tour operators and their response was that they have done so, but now it is clear that it was not correct,” he explained. Maige assured tour operators that next time he would be asking his subordinates to show him a written document from TATO for him to endorse regulatory review in the tourism industry.
The minister signed this particular Antiquities (User Fees Amendment) Rules, 2011 on 15th December last year, with an eye to boost its contribution to the economy.
For his part, Executive Secretary of TATO Mustafa Akuunay commended the minister for his willingness to consult with them, pledging to accord him cooperation for the betterment of the tourism industry.
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 GDP and 41.7 percent of the country's foreign exchange inflows in the last five years.