EASY & SAFE

Tanzania 2014 | TOURISM | REVIEW: TOURISM

Tanzania's beaches, natural resources, and wildlife sightseeing opportunities harbor untapped potential, although additional infrastructure is needed.

True to its goals, Tanzania reached a landmark number of tourist visits in 2012, setting the record with over 1 million arrivals. Growth in this area demonstrates the success of the country's various plans and reflects the effects of increased FDI flows into the country.

As one of the main sources of foreign exchange, tourism plays a vital role in the national economy. In 2005, it accounted for 16% of GDP and approximately 25% of export earnings, while generating up to 198,000 jobs directly and indirectly. By 2011, those figures had risen to 18%, 30%, and 250,000, respectively. Currently, 2% of the population is employed in the tourism industry or related labor force. And while the economic impact of tourism reached $1 billion in 2005, the figure had grown to $1.7 billion in 2012. Analysts expect that by 2015, the total value of the sector could reach $3.7 billion.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) surveys 150 hotels monthly to better gauge tourism sector numbers. In its most recent publication, the NBS reported that 116,453 beds were occupied in June 2013, with 67.8% of customers being of international origin. When you compare this figure with the same month of the year before, bed occupancy rates have risen by 11.3%, or by 28.9% compared to May 2013.

Although the local tourism industry has long been overshadowed by neighboring Kenya's, Tanzania is striving to attract more tourists directly into the country. Since 1995, activity in the tourism industry has been growing by approximately 10% per year. In 2009, it was reported that the majority of tourists entering Tanzania did so directly, while 20%-30% on average crossed the Kenyan border.

One of the ways in which Tanzania is seeking to outshine its neighbor is through the promotion of e-services for tourists and the online dissemination of information on the country. Indeed, travelers from around the world can now look forward to paying their tourism costs and gathering relevant information on the country well before leaving home.

Of the main attractions, the tourism sector is seeking to promote, the nature, scenery, and wildlife appear to be the most promising. In addition to hosting the largest section of the Serengeti, Tanzania is home to two of Africa's most sought-after destinations: Kilimanjaro, the continent's highest peak, and the luxurious beach getaway of Zanzibar, in addition to more than a dozen national parks. Furthermore, a host of cultural attractions such as historical and archaeological sites, as well as manmade architectural wonders and museums, are on offer in the East African country.

THE MODERN TOURIST

In mid-2012, Tanzanian-bank CDRB launched an initiative to revolutionize the tourism sector by integrating technology with its existing services. Using the e-commerce solution, visiting tourists will be able to pre-pay for much of their trip and expenses through tour operators that implement the program. According to a press report, “The new solution is meant to replace the POS payment system, which is now considered outdated, and will open a number of business opportunities to tour operators and hoteliers." For example, hotels or tour guides will be able to design tours and plan for those who pay in advance, thereby conserving financial resources and becoming more efficient, while tailoring itineraries according to clients' needs.

After the system went fully operational in July 2012, Tanzania became the fourth nation to employ an electronic payment system for tourists, with Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria already using the e-facility. In addition, tour operators and hoteliers are now able to use the internet to reach a global customer base from countries in North America, Europe, and Asia.

As the Ministry of Tourism strives to use technology in news ways to promote the industry, a fully fledged marketing effort has yet to take place. “We are lucky because we have attractions that tend to promote themselves, such as Kilimanjaro and Serengeti National Park," Khamis Suedi Kagasheki, Minister of Tourism of the United Republic of Tanzania, explained to TBY. “But were we to use technology to aggressively promote our assets, it would certainly be a new frontier altogether."

MAIN ATTRACTIONS

As an important income earner for the tourism sector at large, the natural resources of Tanzania are considered to be its most valuable assets. From Zanzibar to the Serengeti, the country offers a number of natural attractions for every visitor. In addition, the country's history, architecture, and archeological finds have long interested tourists seeking to be acquainted with the territory's 2,000 years of civilization.

The country's 15 national parks cover an area of 46,348 square kilometers and are by far the most popular attractions. Tanzania's famed Northern Tourism Circuit hosts the largest number of wildlife and nature-oriented tourists, largely due to the variety of offerings in the zone. It is estimated that about 300,000 foreign tourists travel on safari packages on the Northern Tourism Circuit annually. In addition, tourism spending in the area accounts for more than 50% of the country's tourism sector earnings. The circuit consists of five national parks: Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Manyara, Tarangire, and Serengeti. It also includes the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a geological attraction that features the Ngorongoro crater. In 2012, Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) reported that the Northern Circuit parks drew in an average of $20 million per month, with the Ngorongoro Conservation Area raking in $30 million that year.

Although tourists often choose to visit the Serengeti National Park in Kenya, Tanzania's section of the plains is home to a wider variety of animal life and constitutes a larger space of 7,000 square kilometers. As such, it has attracted the attention of notable individual investors such as Paul Tudor Jones, and more recently, a Chinese conglomerate led by Zhou Yi. In addition to wealthy conservationists, a number of celebrities, too, contribute to the environmental health and overall tourism offering of Tanzania's Serengeti National Park. “I believe that it is important for people to invest in tourism who simultaneously help to conserve it," Minister Kagasheki told TBY. “To me, private investors do very well in terms of conservation. They provide facilities for the area and use their own money to protect it."

Since it was launched in 1959, TANAPA has ensured quality visitor experiences, rather than emphasizing “mass tourism" at the expense of park resources and environmental values. However, in support of the growing interest in Tanzania's flora and fauna, the organization has also been working to improve tourism infrastructure in and around the national parks, while simultaneously protecting the wildlife. To this end, TANAPA managed to rehabilitate approximately 6,526 kilometers of road in different parks across the country.