According to Natural Resources and Tourism minister Ezekiel Maige, the government is engaged in intensive review of the national tourism policy in order to help Tanzania earn more from its natural resources.
He says part of the thrust of the new drive is on revising the revenue dimension of existing policy and vastly improving institutional systems.
The aim is to enhance awareness, patriotism, efficiency and accountability at the ministerial level and the level of agencies under the ministry – and hence the idea of transforming the Tanzania Tourist Board into an autonomous agency.
Minister Maige has listed a litany of hurdles the twin natural resources and tourism sectors are grappling with, among them media errors and lack of incentives for investors.
The thrust the minister has elaborated on is not that new, as officials of his level are always expected to live by constantly re-examining their mission and performance.
This is largely because this is in part what usually wins national governments much-needed credit from institutions such as the World Bank.
To be fair to the minister, this is not to suggest that all policy review is futile, although he rightly admits that trying to earn the country more revenue from its natural resources can be difficult indeed.
In this regard, we hope minister Maige remembers that some years ago policy review efforts resulted in a 500 per cent hike in tourist hunting fees – and literally backfired.
Now that hunting blocks allocation has been scientifically reviewed and implemented and there are standing orders on the use of forest resources, perhaps the policy reviews should now focus on other issues.
The government would be well advised to leave tourism advertising in the hands of capable home-based operators as well as private ones with global networks and therefore more likely do a better job.
The unpleasant truth is that most potential foreign tourists will have greater faith in foreign-based advertising agencies, wrongly believing that locally based ones merely engage in self-praise. That, unfortunately, is the bizarre nature of the tourism industry in an environment of cutthroat competition.
In these days when resource allocation conflicts are endemic in the public sector, much as we know of the existence of serious or chronic deficiencies, there is plenty to be desired in efficiency levels in agencies like Tanzania National Parks, Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority and those overseeing forest management.
Unlike many other high-profile public servants, minister Maige has been candid enough to touch on weak links in the chain that he believes must be replaced or repaired for things to work properly once more or even better.
As we all know, tourism is a multi-million-dollar business and it is not easy for the government to singlehandedly spruce it up comprehensively enough and therefore make it serve the nation as expected.
The minister’s dream is that Tanzania’s natural resources will soon be so well developed as to translate into genuinely handsome earnings spent on efforts to make the lives of all our people better. It is costly, yes, but necessary.
We share his dream, and pray that the entire nation will contribute to its realisation, for we have looked on helplessly for too long as the wind blew the wrong way.