Speaking during a round-table discussion with House Speaker, Job Ndugai last Friday, Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) and Hotels Association of Tanzania leaders said the multi-billion-dollar industry is going through tough times due unfriendly and inconsistent policies.
“The industry needs the intervention of your august house now than ever before,” said TATO board of trustee member and founder Chairman, Merwyn Nunes. Nunes said a myriad of taxes and levies imposed on the industry were not only making the business environment unfriendly, but also depicting the country as a non-competitive.
Official records indicate that tour operators in the country are subjected to 32 different taxes, levies and fees which include business registration, regulatory licenses fees, entry fees, income tax and annual tourism licenses for each tourist van.
A study on the Tanzania’s tourism industry last year revealed that administrative burdens of filling in licensing, tax returns and levy paperwork alone place heavy cost on businesses in terms of time and money.
A tour operator, for instance, spends over four months to accomplish regulatory paperwork, let alone tax and license paperwork consuming a total of his 745 hours per year, the study established.
An average annual cost of personnel completing regulatory paperwork per local tour operator stands at $1,300 a year, the joint study by the Tanzania Confederation of Tourism (TCT) and BEST-Dialogue stated.
“We really need new ways and means, especially at policy making levels, if the industry is to turn around the economy,” chipped in the TATO Vice-Chairman, Henry Kimambo.
HAT Chief Executive Officer, Nura-Lisa Karamagi said Ministry of Livestock Development and Fisheries’ recent impromptu inspections of hotel restaurants embarrassed investors in the industry but also imposed hefty penalties.Notwithstanding challenges facing the industry, Tourism and hospitality earns Tanzania’s economy about $2.05 billion per annum or an equivalent to 17 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.
TATO CEO, Sirili Akko touted tourism as a sure way to turnaround the country’s economy because it is not consumptive but also employs millions of people directly.
“Tourists come just to see with their eyes and take photos and leave behind $2 billion annually. It is high time we gave tourism its due attention so that it grows and spur other sectors of the economy,” Akko noted.
Addressing the delegation, Speaker Ndugai pledged to support the industry’s bid to turn tourism into a national priority sector with friendly policies.
Ndugai called upon TATO and HAT leaders to sustain the partnership they have forged with the House in a bid to resolve hiccups facing the industry. According to its national five-year marketing blueprint, Tanzania anticipates hosting two million tourists by end of next year, boosting its revenue from the current $2 billion to nearly $3.8 billion.
Thanks to United States Agency for International Development Project to build capacity of TATO, an umbrella organisation with over 300 members, the tourism industry is headed for a bright future only if the hostile environment is addressed.
Project Coordinator, Jumapili Chenga said engagement with legislators is an important step towards addressing challenges facing the industry.