Covid-19: Tourism sector now appeals for bailouts

25Mar 2020
Marc Nkwame
The Guardian
Covid-19: Tourism sector now appeals for bailouts

​​​​​​​TOURISM stakeholders now want the National Assembly to convene and table an emergency ‘Covid-19 Bailout Bill,’ to save the sector that has by and large succumbed to the wave of coronavirus travel cancellations.

(TATO) executive Sirili Akko.

Mustafa Akoonay, a corporate lawyer representing a number of entities here, said the tourism industry and related sectors in the country have been hard hit by the global shut down due to coronavirus infections and therefore in urgent need of bailout.

He said the 'Bailout Bill’ can be introduced as an emergency agenda in Parliament, because things are getting bad.

“That could come in form of loans from the government, tax waiver or slashed costs of property rent,” he suggested, noting that most of his clients are seeking advice on what steps to be taken next, now that the whole world has come to a standstill.

“We do not want to see workers being sent home as companies cut down overhead costs or close shops. We also believe that wage slashing should be the last resort when all other means have failed. The tourism industry especially needs to be bailed out until things stabilize,” the tourism sector advocate underlined.

“To avoid mass terminations based on operational requirements we can learn from the 2008 global economic meltdown in which many companies were rescued by being bailed out. The ongoing Covid-19 effects are reminiscent of that situation,” he asserted.

Previously Akoonay worked in the tourism industry before joining the National Assembly as MP for Mbulu in Manyara region, and now serves as corporate lawyer heading the Akoonay and Associates firm of Arusha.

We contacted the Tanzania Tour Operators Association (TATO) executive Sirili Akko regarding the suggested bailout plan for the sector, now that the industry was on the brink of collapse.

“Through TATO, tour operators are currently arranging to consult Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa and the bailout proposal is definitely on the agenda, to seek state assistance,” he said.

More than 500 tour companies operate in the country, with the licences issued to the entire industry comprising of tourism and hospitality adding up to more than 1000 entities,  stakeholders say.

Around 1.5 million tourists were already being received per year, with the country targeting to increase this flow to two million visitors by the end of this year, but now the sector is in tatters as long as travel restrictions the world over remain in place.