PREVALENT and very active. That is what one could say about the trend in tourism activities in Tanzania, specifically tourists who visit Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) and Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) as numbers do not lie.
As TANAPA, NCA Authority (NCAA) and other institutions under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism put in concerted efforts in reaching targets set in articles 66 and 67 of the ruling party, CCM’s election manifesto, a bright light is seen presently and in resilience in future of the industry.
The optimism comes as recent figures released by the two authorities are impressive in comparison with the yesteryears. The buoyancy comes bearing in mind that the world was last year hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic that forced grounding of airplanes.
TANAPA Conservation Commissioner says that in 2019/2020 foreign tourists to the national parks were 662,018 while from partner states of the East African Community (EAC) were 413,257 bringing the total to 1,075,275.
“In the July – December 2020 stint there were a total of 311,464 tourists. From abroad the number was 63,638 while from within the EAC were 247,826 who toured the national parks,” says Dr Kijazi who doubles as Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
A year before, that is 2018/9 foreigners were 731,351 and 464,933 EAC residents. In 2017/8 the parks enjoyed tour excursions of 670,144 foreigners and 409,119 from the EAC bloc while in 2016/7 there were 595,811 foreigners and 386,529 Wang EAC residents. In 2015/6 when the fifth phase government came to power there were 518,457 foreigners who came to the parks complemented by EAC residents numbering 439,119.
Among other things, the manifesto directs the CCM government to make transformation in the sector to earn 6 billion US dollars in the next five years, up from 2 billion US dollars. It is a key sector that at a macro level, accounts to more than 17 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), creating more than 1.5 million direct jobs, both permanent and temporary.
Statistical Bulletin from the ministry responsible for tourism shows that in spite of effects of the Coronavirus pandemic globally, Tanzania has inspiring data showing that international visitors’ arrivals and receipts in Tanzania between 2005 and 2020 reached 1,527,230 and receipts reached 2,612.8million US dollars 2019 that was an increase by 0.2 per cent and eight percent respectively compared to the situation in 2018.
In spite of the slight increase in the number of international visitors’ arrivals, earnings increased more due to the rise of average length of stay and overall average expenditure. Staying long is what TANAPA and NCAA are seeking now, having strategised and now look forward to implementation of General Management Plan (GMP) that will see hotels constructed in the NCA in near future to augment the long stay and expenditure.
Trends of tourists’ arrivals and consequent payments for services received have led to, among others, an increase in employment creation, especially for the youth and contribution to the forex by 25 per cent.
The positive trend has not come about as a hail from a thunderstorm but down to hard work and determination by officials from the two institutions as well as collaboration from other stakeholders and huge support from the Central Government that sees the tourism sector as the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Commenting on efforts made, Commissioner Kijazi said TANAPA was able to establish important departments in its paramilitary system such as intelligence, prosecution and monitoring ones to ensure improvement in conservation and tourism activities while tackling poaching.
By February last year, tourism activities were in shambles due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and by April there was no single foreign tourist. The government issued funds to ensure operations go on as usual.
NCAA Conservation Commissioner (CC) Assistant, Mr Elibariki Bajuta says that in the past five years, earnings for the authority have more than doubled due to an increase in visitors to the world’s unbroken caldera. In 2018/9 the revenue surged to 143.4bn/- up from a mere 60.6bn/- in the financial year 2014/5.
There has also been improvement in infrastructure to and within the parks and authority areas as well as in collection systems. Authorities keep tapping opportunities and set more strategies to ensure they get the most and best out of the sector by having more tourists who stay long in national parks, conserved areas and other tourism destinations the latter wish, with standard services in the hospitality industry offered.
Tanzania tourist attractions also have been voted as among the best globally and regionally, Serengeti National Park standing out after being voted African Safari Park in 2018, reflecting the continued popularity of this stunning park with safari-goers and industry experts alike.
In 2019 again, the World Travel Awards (WTA) voted Serengeti National Park as the leading national park in Africa, in a meeting that was held in Mauritius. The previous year award was from the SafariBookings. com. On 9th November last year, Serengeti National Park won again the WTA’s awards for Africa’s Leading National Park category.
Serengeti was also voted Africa’s best safari destination in a survey conducted by SafariBookings. com in that year. Other Tanzanian winners included the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti in Africa’s Leading Luxury Safari Lodge category.
Others were Thanda Island in Africa’s Leading Luxury Island category and the Port of Dar es Salaam in Africa’s Leading Cruise Port category. The WTA was established in 1993 to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the tourism industry.
“The award is a mileage to Serengeti as far as attraction of tourists is concerned. It is obvious that many holidaymakers will want to visit the park,” TANAPA’s Senior Assistant Conservation Communication Commissioner, Mr Pascal Shelutete said.
With all those, the country saw prominent international figures touring the parks and conserved areas. They include former US President Barack Obama who jetted in the country and went for sightseeing in 2019. Also, Russian President Vladimir Putin made it to the parks.
Others who toured the parks before are an American actor, rapper, and film producer, Willard Carroll Smith Jr, popularly known as Will Smith and Oprah Winfrey who is an American talk show host, television producer, actress, author, and philanthropist.
Tanzanian government, through its Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) has since come up with a specialized tourism station – Safari Channel that concentrates on promoting tourism activities for people residing out of Tanzania so as to attract them to the unforgettable country.