Travel expert commends govt on overseas travel

05May 2016
Our Reporter
The Guardian
Travel expert commends govt on overseas travel
  • The TASOTA chairman says that the government would make more savings by negotiating special travel packages with airlines for external trips

The chairman of the Tanzania Society of Travel Agents (TASOTA), Moustafa Khataw, has lauded the government for stopping unnecessary travel overseas for civil servants and other public officials.

The chairman of TASOTA, Moustafa Khataw

He told The Banker that more savings would be made by negotiating special travel packages with airlines for external trips. Khataw, who is also the CEO of Skylink Group, made the remarks when commenting of the current state of the economy and business environment.

He also called on the authorities to embrace e-travel procurement saying it would greatly enhance transparency in travel expenses. In December, President Magufuli suspended four top officers in the anti-corruption body, PCCB, who travelled abroad despite the government’s recent suspension of all foreign trips for public servants.

“The measures taken by the government to curtail unnecessary overseas travel is laudable. In fact, if the government wishes to make even more savings, they should negotiate for government fares with various airlines depending on the routes and travel budgets,” Khataw said in a recent interview.

“E-travel procurement is the way forward to enhance transparency,” he added noting that “these are my personal views based on my businesses in the tourism and transport sector.”

Dr Magufuli has travelled outside Tanzania only once since he assumed power five months ago. This was when he went to Rwanda to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the country’s genocide early last month.

Between 2013-14 and 2014-15, about 356.3bn/- (some US$163 million) was spent on travel abroad by ministries, state companies, independent departments and agencies. University of Dar es Salaam’s lecturer Simon Ngalomba said the amount was enough to build 400 kilometres of tarmacked roads.

The purge on the trips has not amused many including some lawmakers, ‘briefcase travel’ firms, foreign relations experts, donors and airlines. Many have downplayed the decision saying the government should seek long-term solutions to fiscal challenges instead of piecemeal measures, such as broadening the tax base and living within its means.

“As a result of travel suspension, airlines scaled down their flights – e.g. Emirates which used to have double daily flights to Dar, reduced their frequency to one flight daily. Air Seychelles, on the other hand, pulled out of Tanzania completely because they failed to garner traction. Airlines have come up with numerous offers to build up market share including increasing luggage allowance,” Khataw observed.

According to him, business has been lacklustre in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2015. He however, said the situation would improve in the second half of the year after tabling of this year’s budget.

Khataw also said that importation of goods from landlocked countries using the Dar es Salaam port has reduced drastically with importers using Mombasa and Beira ports instead of Dar es Salaam. Moreover, exports of copper from Zambia have dwindled due to lower commodity prices in the world market, he added.

“I have noticed that during the first quarter of 2015, business was vibrant since there was plenty of money in circulation being spent by the government towards various projects, including exhaustive travelling by government officials as well as those from the executive agencies overseas for training and business meetings. The inflow of tourists has albeit slowed down this year,” Khataw said.

“We must also note that the tourism industry and air travel are in their low season but we expect their business to pick up from June 2016 onwards”, he said.

The TASOTA top official said the revival of Air Tanzania will give impetus to domestic travel wherein local travel especially to remote areas is prohibitively expensive. With the construction of the flyover at TAZARA and other projects that have been envisage by the government, there will be Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into the economy, which would spur more production and also provide more employment opportunities, he noted.

The gas industry also needs attention it deserves so that the sector can contribute to the country’s GDP at large, he added.