Is this the country’s most expensive hotel?

04Mar 2016
Correspondent
The Guardian
Is this the country’s most expensive hotel?

At $10,000 a night (around 22 million/-) and with a minimum stay of one week, a new island hotel opening in Mafia next month is likely to have the most expensive accommodation rooms in Tanzania.

Thanda Island

The hotel is situated on Thanda Island (pictured), which is said to be privately-owned, with no boat allowed to approach within a radius of one kilometer without express permission.

In order to get a booking, visitors would have to pay a minimum of $70,000 (over 150m/-).

While it is envisaged that the hotel will transform the sleepy Mafia islands area into a high-end tourism centre, only about 1 per cent of the entire Tanzanian population is likely to be able to afford such rates.

The rest would be financially excluded from enjoying the hospitality of the hotel or the natural beauty of the island. Forbes magazine, which featured Thanda Island in a recent report, described the hotel as an "Indian Ocean paradise" about a 40-minute helicopter flight south-east of Dar es Salaam.

"At low tide it measures about twenty acres of forest and beach, and further insulates its guests in a cocoon of privacy by being in an aquatic Tanzanian game reserve," the magazine reported.

The Thanda Island company, whose principals are Swedish entrepreneur Dan Olofsson and managing director Pierre Delvaux, are known for having also developed the Thanda Private Game Reserve in South Africa.

Regarding the new project in Tanzania, Delvaux said: “It’s absolutely private. You (customer) have the exclusive use of the property. Until I saw it from a plane window and we began this process of developing it ten years back, the place was uninhabited.”

“We have a long-term lease on the island, and one of the things we were able to negotiate was that for a kilometer around, no other boats but yours are allowed in those waters."

"You see all these mega-yachts around, but unless it’s yours and you want to drive right up to the island, nobody’s allowed to do that.

And if you want to dive, well, there’s nothing like the wildlife there, the whole place is surrounded by a reef. The sand is white.

It squeaks when you walk on it.” But a local hospitality industry critic noted that before hopping onto a chopper to Thanda Island, tourist guests would have to endure poor services and facilities at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) in Dares Salaam, which is listed as one of the worst airports in Africa based on overall airport experience.

"Picture the poor guy who spent that kind of money ($70,000 for a week's stay at the hotel) arriving in Tanzania through JNIA.

He would have to stand in line for 2 hours at immigration to get a visa," said the critic who preferred to remain anonymous.

He continued: "Sweating buckets from the heat with broken air-conditioning and stinking airport toilets at JNIA, surrounded by grouchy immigration officials, they then get their visa and head to their next gruesome experience called the Dar es Salaam traffic to go catch the chopper."

"When its time to go home, they have to go through that ordeal again. By the time they reach home, all they will remember and say is - that was a bipolar experience, would I do it again at that cost? Not very likely.”