Tourists applaud Serengeti COVID-19 testing facility

03May 2021
Correspondent
Arusha
The Guardian
Tourists applaud Serengeti COVID-19 testing facility

FOREIGN tourists have applauded the recent decision by Tanzanian authorities to put up a Covid-19 testing centre within the Serengeti National Park, saying it saves time and resources.

The facility was rolled out by the park authorities in collaboration with the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO).

Chris Mears, the chief executive officer for the African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA), sounded this appreciation in a letter to TATO CEO Sirili Akko, affirming that the opening of the Covid-19 testing centre at Seronera in Serengeti was well received by ATTA members and their clients travelling to Tanzania.

ATTA is a member-driven trade association that promotes tourism to Africa from all corners of the world. Recognised as the voice of African tourism, ATTA serves and supports businesses in Africa representing buyers and suppliers of tourism products across 21 African countries.

 Mears said ATTA members and tourists are impressed as the testing centre enables travellers to maximise their time in the parks and avoid cutting short their safaris to facilitate the testing required for their onward journey.

Dr. Wilbrod Slaa, the country’s ambassador to Sweden and the Scandinavia, said in a communication  that key travel agents are encouraged by the move to set up the Covid-19 specimen collection center within the park.

“Scandinavian travel agents cite the rollout of the Serengeti testing center as appropriate as it uplifts the mood among potential tourists. It is major step in attracting a significant number of holidaymakers in the near future,” the envoy noted.

 Key tour operators confirm that the pioneer Covid-19 specimen collection center has started stimulating new bookings.

Francisca Masika, the Director of Nature Responsible, said that for a month now, the firm has seen a surge of bookings with our prospective tourists citing the pioneer center at Serengeti as having convinced them to book safari.

Over the past month the company has received a total of 48 safari booking enquiries and 39 out of them were confirmed, and the rest remain on their desks.

She praised the collaboration between TANAPA, TATO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in setting up the facility, saying it will contribute to faster recovery of the tourism industry in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

TATO chairman Willy Chambulo said that these efforts had started to pay dividends by enhancing the flow of tourism traffic by stimulating new bookings.

Commencing its operations on 13th February, 2021, the Seronera Covid-19 sample collection center is the first of its kind in the country, located at the heart of the Serengeti.

The park authorities have also deployed a fleet of recently procured ambulances in key national parks to render urgent services in case of need, after skies were reopened mid last year, with the vehicles being allocated to the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Kilimanjaro National Park and the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem.

Recently, TATO inked a deal with North American based, CornerSun Destination Marketing, to lead its tourism recovery strategy amidst the continuing COVID-19 environment and vaccination drives in Europe and North America.

 CornerSun will combine its targeted communications expertise and strong travel trade relations in the North American market to amplify awareness and visibility of the destination, to enhance future visitation.

“We are proud to partner with an agency such as CornerSun that has the strength and know-how to help Destination Tanzania not only to recover from this pandemic, but build back better,” said Akko, taking up a trending American adage.

“We are confident in their ability to broaden the reach of our recovery strategy and help position Tanzania as a safe, top-of-mind destination amongst key North American travelers as the world begins to travel again.”

Akko was grateful to the UNDP for supporting TATO’s efforts to diversify its marketing strategy in order to attract more visitors and boost tourism numbers in the aftermath of the pandemic.

 UNDP is supporting TATO as it implements its ‘Tourism Recovery Strategy’ to help spur businesses, recover thousands of lost jobs and generate revenue for the economy.

Representing over 300 tour operators, TATO is a leading liaison agency for the tourism industry, with their combined earnings estimated at $2.05bn and equivalent to 17 percent of the country’s GDP.

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