UNDP in the country backed Tanzania Association of Tour Operators financially to convert a Toyota Landcruiser donated by Tanganyika Wilderness Camps, into a state of the art ambulance that will be used to transport sick tourists from any wilderness to hospitals.
In addition, the UNDP funds also purchased much-needed Personal Protective Equipment to protect the tourists and Tato members serving them while on Safaris against the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Officials said the main objective of deploying the ambulances is to assure tourists that Tanzania is well prepared to act promptly in case of emergency and as part of the national plan to roll out a welcome mat for holidaymakers.
“Today will go down in history as the day that marks a unique pairing of the private sector and UNDP to compliment government efforts to assure tourists of their safety amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Natural Resources and Tourism Permanent Secretary, Dr Aloyce Nzuki.
Dr Nzuki who was speaking in Arusha last week during a ceremony to unveil the official launch of the ambulance that has since been deployed in the Northern tourist circuit poured praises to TATO and UNDP for their strategic partnership which seeks to restore the tourism industry which has suffered heavily from Covid-19 outbreak.
Indeed, this initiative will be rolled out on a public-private partnership (PPP) model of which the government will provide paramedics and the private sector will offer ambulances. Christine Musisi, UNDP Resident Representative said cognizant of tourism industry as an accelerator of sustainable development, with potential to contribute towards several Sustainable Development Goals, the world body felt obliged to support the course.
“We are keen to continue supporting the government in the development of a comprehensive recovery plan for the tourism industry both on Tanzania Mainland and in Zanzibar,” Musisi pledged during the ceremony.
In response, Tato which is a 37-year-old lobbying and advocacy body for the multi-billion dollar industry made of 300 plus members across the country, cherished UNDP and government’s commitment to revive the struggling tourism industry.
“We in Tato are so grateful to UNDP for the much needed support, this will go a long way to support the responsible and timely recovery of the industry, a major foreign currency earner, on which thousands of small businesses and jobs depend on,” said Tato CEO, Sirili Akko.
Akko said in addition, tourism provides 600,000 direct jobs to Tanzanians and over one million others earn an income from the industry saying as countries begin to lift lockdowns and tourism starts to recover, Tato will continue to work with UNDP and government to rejuvenate the industry.
Official statistics from the state show that over 30,000 tourists visited the country’s national parks in July alone. Tanzania National Parks’ Assistant Conservation Commissioner, in charge of Business Development portfolio, Beatrice Kessy said by August 17, the country had received over 18,000 tourists, an indication that recovery is speeding up.
Serengeti, Manyara and Kilimanjaro National Parks are leading in terms of receiving a lion’s share of tourists, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, after having attracted 7,811, 1,987 and 1,676 tourists respectively. For instance, Tanapa’s data indicates that in August, Ibanda and Mahale National Parks drew only seven and six visitors, respectively.
However, tourists visiting all 22 national parks countrywide have sharply dropped to just three immediately after Tanzania confirmed its first Covid-19 case in March this year. “National parks used to receive 1,000 plus visitors during the low season in the past,” Kessy explained while attributing the current gradual upsurge of tourists visiting the country to a recovery plan, which the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism jointly devised in partnership with private sector as well as UNDP basing on World Tourism Organisation’s guidelines.
Wildlife tourism has continued to grow in recent years with an average of nearly 1.5 million tourists visiting the country annually, earning the country U$2.5 billion, equivalent to nearly 17.6 percent of gross domestic product, cementing its position as the country’s leading foreign currency earner.
The ambulance is one of the four which have been converted and will be deployed in tourism famous areas of Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Kilimanjaro National Park and Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem.