Arusha based Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) last week deployed a delegation led by its Vice-Chairman, Henry Kimambo in a mission to recruit members in Southern circuit as part of its strategy to open up the area to the global tourism clientele.
“We want to replicate the best practices from the Northern tourism circuit to Southern shred,” Kimambo told Iringa based peers during the engagement meeting.
Kimambo revealed that TATO plans to bring its services close to its members in the Southern circuit which comprises of Morogoro, Iringa, Njombe and Mbeya regions.
TATO which clocks 36-years this year, now wants the Southern circuit to get a chunk of the global multi-billion dollar industry. The tour operators lobby will this year open a liaison office in Iringa to take care its Southern circuit members.
Kimambo further noted that his association is aware that the Southern circuit based tour operators not only have their own challenges, but also need strong ties with their Northern circuit peers, if the tourism potential is to be unleashed.
Presenting the benefits of creating synergies with the Southern Circuit tour operators, TATO Chief Executive Officer, Sirili Akko said lobbying and advocacy is a core service offered by his association.
“Members enjoy conducive business environment as TATO represent a collective voice for private tour operators in lobbying and advocating towards the common goal of improving the business climate in Tanzania,” Akko explained.
He pointed out that the lobby group also provides unparalleled networking opportunities among its members hence allowing individual tour operators or companies to connect with their peers, mentors, and other industry leaders and policy makers.
“The association’s annual general meeting represents an incredible opportunity for member to meet and network with the largest gathering of their peers during the year,” the TATO CEO added.
TATO also trains its members on key issues such as labour laws, tax compliance, corporate social responsibility, conservation issues, among others, he noted.
“Indeed, TATO provides members with a competitive advantage because they become active, informed members of their industry,” Sirili chipped in while stressing that members also get updates on all issues pertaining to tourism and related sectors by providing resources, information, and opportunities they might not have had otherwise.
Thanks to USAID PROTECT Project for building the capacity of TATO, an umbrella organisation with over 300 members, it has become an efficient advocacy agency for the tourism industyry.
Project coordinator, Jumapili Chenga said the scaling up of TATO’s membership base is one of his scheme’s main components.
Speaking at the same gathering, Iringa Region’s Tourism Officer, Hawa Mwichaga expressed appreciation to TATO for coming up with a long lasting strategy to unlock the Southern tourism circuit. “For us here in Iringa, we promise to work with you closely to unlock the huge potential which the Southern circuit has,” Mwichaga said.
Iringa Tourism Association (ITA) members such as Ernest Luwala, Nancy Mfugale, Modestus Mdemu and Serafina Lanzi all backed the idea of joining TATO as a concrete step to spur tourism in Southern circuit.
Natural Resources and Tourism Ministry’s officer in-charge for Southern Circuit, Tully Kulanya said her zone has a great potential for tourism business but lacks promotion and marketing. “The Southern circuit has virgin parks and Africa’s largest game reserve in Selous which are perfect destinations for holidaymakers looking for plentiful and rare wildlife in a remote area of Africa” Kulanya noted.
The Southern circuit’s national parks are: Mikumi, Udzungwa, Kitulo Ruaha with Selous as the only game reserve. Despite their abundant of virgin resources, the circuit attracts fewer visitors because of poor marketing and bad infrastructure.
Popular activities in the area include game viewing in open roof vehicles, boat safaris, walking safaris and bird watching, among others. Tourism remains the country’s highest foreign currency earner with last year’s earnings increasing by 7.13 percent thanks to increased foreign arrivals.
Revenues from tourism peaked $2.43 billion last year, up from $2.19 billion in 2017, Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa told parliament during his budget speech a fortnight ago. Tourist arrivals totalled 1.49 million compared to 1.33 million during the same period, Majaliwa said. The government targets to bring in two million foreign visitors by 2020.