WILDER LIFE

Tanzania 2014 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Khamis Kagasheki, Minister of Natural Resources & Tourism, on the reasons why tourism is a key driver of the economy and the potential for the development of beach tourism.

Khamis Kagasheki
BIOGRAPHY
Khamis Kagasheki attended Fordham University in New York, earning a degree in political economics before returning to Tanzania to take up a position as an ambassador in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism in February of 2008 after serving as the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs.

How do you conserve Tanzania's natural and cultural resources while enlarging the tourism sector?

Over the past year, while visiting many establishments in the areas where tourism is thriving, I have noted that conservation is key. For example, people such as Paul Tudor Jones, who has maintained an amazing part of the Serengeti for years, are working to support the cause. The kind of conservation work that he has done and the type of wildlife present in that area are very different from what can been seen in other areas of the national park. There are other examples of investors interested in this area that are promoting tourism and conservation. In those areas, the grass is green and the wildlife is plentiful and diverse. To my thinking, private investors do very well in terms of conservation. They provide facilities for the area and use their own money to protect it. In the case of Paul Tudor Jones, he is subject to a quota for the amount of wildlife he can hunt, be it lions, elephants, or zebras—but he never hunts. He is one of the best, and an excellent exampleof the kind of investor we appreciate. I believe that it is important to have people who invest in tourism while simultaneously helping to conserve it. Paul Tudor Jones has his own client base of tourists, with a number of them being celebrities who invest and promote tourism. They inject funds that go toward policing the areas with anti-poaching measures, thereby helping the government to promote preservation of the flora and fauna.

How is technology used in tourism and the conservation of natural resources?

In our national parks and other game control areas, technology is extremely important. This is because when tourists visit the area, they are likely to bring their iPads, Androids, or other tablets. Tourists prefer the option of immediately being online with their loved one, often through email. Therefore, we have to ensure that internet service is available as it offers comfort and assurance to visitors. We have invested heavily, but tourists still tell us that the service could improve. The President has instructed the national parks to make communications easier, more affordable, and more accessible. I am in touch with the Minster of Communications, Science, and Technology to discuss this issue and work on catering to tourists' needs. And this is an area that I consider essential as far as tourism is concerned. Tourists, for example, want to check their flights, contact airlines or hotels, and make bookings, and we have to provide internet access from wherever they are. This kind of technological communication, where people can rely on access to information, pictures, and so forth, needs more investment. On another level, the residents of surrounding villages would also benefit from better technology.


Do you use technology to promote tourism?

This is something that has not yet been implemented. The department that deals with communications still lacks the skilled staff required to undertake the task. It would be useful to coordinate with TENAPA, which deals with the national parks, and the Ngorongoro Conservation Authority Area, which is equally important. This is the best way to promote Tanzania as a tourist destination and the attractions that we have. Activity in this area would certainly open up new ground.


What would be your ideal relationship with foreign investors?

In the past, the business community perceived the government as its enemy. Today, we are aggressively working to reverse that perception. My philosophy is very simple—the government cannot do business, and especially in a delicate sector like tourism. There are plenty of people with the resources to steer the industry, and the government's role should be to ensure that the appropriate laws and regulations are in place. Even with those laws and regulations, the government should not dictate terms. Instead, the involvement and participation of the private sector is necessary, because once those laws are passed, private businesses are the entities that deal with them—not the government. In terms of making the atmosphere in the industry conducive to doing business, the involvement of private actors is crucial. As long as investors lack confidence in the institutions themselves, they will not invest. That is why the business community in the tourism industry simply cannot be composed of government players. In fact, since I assumed my current position, this has been my main focus. For example, I hold regular meetings with members of the private sector. I meet with the Tourism Confederation of Tanzania quarterly, and I am working to make the tourism industry easier to participate in. I am facing a situation where people explain that even though they wanted to go through the processes of constructing a branded hotel, for whatever reason, it did not work. Instead, they often go to Rwanda and claim that permission was granted in two days, and in Kenya perhaps only three. These entrepreneurs are installing infrastructure and building hotels, which is something that could support generations to come. This is what myself and a number of others are seeking to improve upon. Tourists expect a certain level of quality when they arrive in Tanzania and the infrastructure needs to be there to make it possible.

How will the tourism industry contribute to Tanzania's Development Vision 2025?

I believe that if there is a particular sector that can contribute immensely to the Tanzanian goal of attaining the status of a middle-income country, it is definitely tourism. The sector has already been the leading foreign exchange generator in this country for years. Moreover, tourism also makes a substantial contribution to GDP, and has only recently been overtaken by mining. My belief is that if we can attract solid players—and I am confident that we can—Tanzania could absolutely overcome remaining obstacles and lead the way for the opening up of the country. Visiting tourists contribute to the economy, but the domino effect becomes apparent in the benefits that other small businesses get from that activity. In order to expand the sector, we must re-focus our efforts. Our tourism offering has focused heavily on wildlife, but we also have beautiful beaches. However, there is very little awareness of Tanzania's beaches. People know about the Caribbean islands and Mexico, and beach tourism generates fantastic tourism revenue there. In Kenya, Mombasa for example, has hotels and resorts associated with beach tourism. The reality of Tanzania today is that visiting tourists view it as a destination for a safari for one or two days before departing. Yes, tourism is an important sector and a huge contributor to Tanzania's Vision 2025 goal, but its sheer potential is what makes the industry truly attractive and interesting. There is enormous room for growth.