‘National parks Covid-19 free, safe zones for tourists’

22May 2020
Marc Nkwame
The Guardian
‘National parks Covid-19 free, safe zones for tourists’

​​​​​​​AS the high tourism season sets in amid global coronavirus concerns, Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) officials are flinging open their gates ready to receive tourists after a number of countries were reported to ease lockdowns.

Dr Allan Kijazi, Tanapa’s Commissioner of Conservation.

Dr Allan Kijazi, Tanapa’s Commissioner of Conservation, has said that June is usually the month during which the high tourism season starts in Tanzania and the rest of East Africa.

“We still hope to get leisure visitors here despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and in fact some tour operators have confirmed a number of bookings,” he affirmed.

Speaking at the Arusha National Park, a destination located at the foot of Mount Meru, Dr Kijazi pointed out that while some are skeptical, asserting that few tourists will be visiting Tanzania in these tough times, Tanapa was confident that the number could even surpass previous years.

“It is also very possible for Tanzania to receive more visitors this year as most people who were in the corona-driven lockdown abroad, would prefer to get out and take refuge in national parks that provide endless plains, wildlife and breeze of fresh air, without worrying about dangers of mingling with crowds of people,” the conservator explained.

The 21 national parks in the country were in lock-down for lack of tourists for about three months, in which case the precincts are untouched, unpolluted and untampered with for at least that period. They are among areas in the world where no traffic has been taking place for 12 weeks, restoring their natural atmosphere in part.

On his part, Sirili Akko, an executive with the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO), said he was still contacting members to find out the number of tourists that have confirmed their itinerary with each member company.

Addressing the nation yesterday, President Magufuli said tourists would be flowing into the country from the end of May and early June.

Dr Khamis Kigwangalla, the minister for Natural Resources and Tourism said the ministry has designated health facilities to cater specially for tourists and service providers in the tourism sector.

Tour operators need to ensure that each visitor arriving in the country is backed with an insurance package providing for air evacuation in case of emergency, while the ministry was deploying mobile ambulance services in view of likely need.

Tanzania has more than 500 tour operators and the country usually was handling around 1.5 million leisure visitors per year. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism authorities were targeting to obtain two million foreign visitors by the end of this year.