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Tourism in Tanzania—high spenders

From Chapter 8 of the African Transformation Report

Tourism, at about 13% of GDP in 2012, is one of Tanzania’s largest exports (about $1.4 billion in 2012, or 25% of exports). The earnings were second only to those from gold, ahead of agriculture and manufacturing. The sector employs about 430,000 people directly.

With 843,000 international visitors in 2011, Tanzania reached an enviable position as a high expenditure–low volume destination. The top five source markets were Italy (mainly vacation clubs), the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, and Spain. Some 55% of visitors were ages 25–44, and 27% were ages 45–64. Almost 80% were leisure travelers.

Tanzania attracts some of the world’s most illustrious tour operators, some that market only Tanzania. It has about 32,000 rooms of all types, with 58,000 beds and room occupancies around 50–60%. Most hotels are privately owned, medium to small, and locally branded, except in Dar es Salaam, where several international groups operate. The travel industry, represented by the tour operators and travel agencies, has been improving its products and services through creative packaging, including visits to local communities.

Responsibility for tourism policy lies with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. Three departments (tourism, wildlife, antiquities) lead the sector through a number of agencies, such as TANAPA (the national park authority), the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, and the Tanzania Tourist Board, which markets the country. The Tanzania Investment Center handles investment promotion. The Presidential Parastatal Sector Reform Commission encourages wider ownership of productive assets, and privatization in tourism has been substantial. Zanzibar has three agencies for tourism: the Zanzibar Tourism Commission, the Zanzibar Investment Promotion Agency, and the Commission for Land and Environment. The Tourism Confederation of Tanzania, the umbrella private sector institution, has 14 industry and trade member associations. The Tanzania Tourist Board has done a good job of marketing tourism on a very limited budget.

A Tourism Master Plan (PDF) was widely circulated and debated in 1996 as a strategic document and updated in 2002. The plan emphasizes clusters, aggressive management to stay abreast of trends, and differentiating products to add value. A plan for Zanzibar, completed in 2003, focuses on beach and cultural tourism. There is also a new tourism law, but it offers little improvement over earlier versions.

Tourism investment has been concentrated in a few areas, notably around Arusha (the northern circuit) and Zanzibar. A new National College of Tourism is a state-of-the art facility expected to enroll 600 African Transformation Report 2014 | Boosting tourism 162 students annually from Southern African Development Community countries. This gives Tanzania a much-needed option to improve service standards in its tourism industry and to serve the region.

What does Tanzania need to do to get to the next level?

Implement the master plan in phases.

With the northern circuit overcrowded in the mid-1990s, Tanzania imposed moratoriums on new construction. And a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization threat to delist the Ngorongoro Crater created the necessity for early action. The southern circuit is the most accessible and, unlike the western zones (with Gombe National Park), it offers an internationally competitive product mix of wildlife and beach tourism at reasonable investment costs. It will require new and rehabilitated infrastructure (road and rail and better park investment), through public private partnerships, nongovernmental organization support, and private groups, as well as the state.

Revisit the sector’s constraints and opportunities in the legal framework.

The tourism law does not measure up to the industry’s expectations. So the country should revisit the law’s basic principles and add policies in subsequent ministerial or national decrees without having to redo the underlying law. It should create a commission with clear goals, objectives, and terms of reference and a mandate to propose action on key pressing issues. Actions are also needed in other areas including:

  • Options for an open skies policy.
  • Pooling wisdom on new products.
  • Seeking an implementable budget mechanism.
  • Reviewing the fiscal and incentive regime.
  • Simplifying and rationalizing the licensing system and harmonizing payments.
  • Elaborating proposals for a destination management organization.
  • Proposing a master tourism plan for East Africa.
  • Considering a single visa for international visitors to the region.
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