Enhancing tourist arrivals a multifaceted business

22Oct 2019
The Guardian
Enhancing tourist arrivals a multifaceted business

ANOTHER hefty energy boost is on the cards following a directive by President John Magufuli to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism to seek more creative ways so that the number of tourist arrivals in the country reflect more of the status the country has attained in that regard. It is-

- to act on a well known gap, not just at the local level but among international travel networks, a lasting enigma.

The president said the level of arrivals, now said to have reached 1.5m per year are too low for a country renowned for its unique attractions. As a matter of fact the president may not indeed have gone far enough in making his point about uniqueness, as there are international travel rankings that at the start of the year in an award giving ceremony in Moscow, put it in full galore. A ranking magazine said Tanzania is second only to Brazil in tourist attractions worldwide - but the number of visitors it receives comes nowhere near that rank.

The president made that observation in a speech read on his behalf by Chief Secretary Ambassador John Kijazi at the launch of a three-day Swahili International Tourism (SITE) Expo 2019 in the city on Friday. He pointed out that arrivals in Tanzania match those of Mauritius, which only has beach tourism to offer, in like manner as Zanzibar or Dar es Salaam, Mafia Island etc, without consideration for all other attractions. The question is why this situation obtains.

The single most valid explanation is that tourists are budget tourists, they are sensitive to the margins that their travel agents will lay out for them and habitually they will pick the lowest bidder. Those whose minimum requirement in the travel package is sand beaches and they perhaps feel more comfortable in a French speaking environment may pick Mauritius. If they have a knack for history and some Arab relics they may come to Zanzibar; if they prefer wildlife, it is the Mainland.

Seen from that angle, there is a price margin that takes Tanzania out of visiting schedule of many budget tourists, marginally for the parks and more so for hotels. Many budget tourists could sleep in ordinary guest houses in Arusha, Moshi or Mbeya but there are far too many muggers for them to stay in isolated places on their own. Some local European residents have sorry tales to tell, mugged at every corner at times in broad daylight, in the idea that any European has much cash.

It is perhaps not far-fetched to say that levels of criminality are related to poverty and joblessness, and also the degree to which the service industry is booming. Tourists prefer places where they don’t look out of the ordinary, so that they aren’t marked out for anything funny or irritating, and in that case the local environment has a lot to do for the tourist to feel part of a wider setting that nearly looks like him, or her. It is part of the whole problem of the ‘doing business’ environment that the government has been battling to rectify, and will indeed be looking for ideas on how to end the low arrivals conundrum as well. It is a matter of joining globalization, so that everyone feels comfortable.