WILDER LIFE

Tanzania 2014 | TOURISM | VIP INTERVIEW

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

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 various areas of the national park. There are other examples of investors interested in this area who are promoting tourism and conservation. In those areas, the grass is green and the wildlife is plentiful and diverse. 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. In the case of Paul Tudor Jones, he is subject to a quota for the amount of wildlife he can hunt, whether it's lions, elephants, or zebras—but he never hunts. He is one of the best and an excellent example of 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 celebrities that invest and promote tourism. They inject funds toward policing the areas with anti-poaching measures, thereby helping the government to promote preservation of the flora and fauna.

What would be your ideal relationship with foreign investors?

In the past, the business community believed that the government was its enemy. 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 lead 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. Instead, the involvement and participation of the private sector is necessary, because once those laws are passed, the private sector is the one that has to live with them—not the government. The government is simply implementing the laws. 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, they will not invest. That is why the business community in the tourism industry cannot be composed of government players. Since I have been in my current position, this has been my main focus. For example, I conduct regular meetings with members of the private sector. I meet with the Tourism Confederation of Tanzania every quarter, 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, something that could support generations. This is what I 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.

“Tourism is an important sector and a huge contributor to Tanzania's Vision 2025 goal."

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

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. This is the sector that has been the leading foreign exchange generator in this country for years. However, tourism also makes a substantial contribution to the GDP of the country, and only recently has mining overtaken it. My belief is that if we can attract good players—and I am confident that we can—Tanzania can absolutely overcome obstacles blocks and lead the way for the opening up of the country. The tourists coming contribute to the economy, but the domino effect is the benefits other small businesses get from that activity. In order to expand the sector, we must re-focus our efforts. Our tourism has focused very much 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. Kenya and Mombasa, for example, have hotels and resorts that are associated with beach tourism. The issue now is that the tourists who come to Tanzania see it as a place to go on safari for one or two days and then leave. Yes, tourism is an important sector and a huge contributor to Tanzania's Vision 2025 goal, but the potential is what makes the industry so attractive and interesting. There is enormous room for growth.

© The Business Year - July 2013