We’ll boycott route over high charges, warn tour guides

Tanzania tour operators have threatened to stop using the Mto wa Mbu-Lake Natron-Oldonyo Lengai route due to a myriad of charges imposed by local authorities.Tourists travelling to Lake Natron and mountain of God -- Oldonyo Lengai -- have since 2002 been subjected to cough US$35 each just in transit.

Monduli, Longido and Ngorongoro district councils had imposed these unspecified charges for each foreign tourist.

Tourists pay $10 at Engaruka gate in Monduli District Council, another $10 at Oldonyo Lengai gate for Longido District Council, while Ngorongoro District Council collects as high as $15 at Engarasero gate.

Now Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (Tato) said from March 1, 2013 they would exclude the route on their itineraries to save their clients from paying the exorbitant charges.

“It is very unfair to charge a tourist $35 even before seeing anything,” Tato executive secretary Mustafa Akuunay told a press conference on Tuesday. He added that business was all about negotiations and did not need harsh laws.

Due to the exorbitant charges, the tour vehicles taking tourists through Mto wa Mbu have fallen from 15 to only six per week, about 60 per cent decline, thus denying local people who sell cultural items to tourists the opportunities.

Coordinator of cultural tourism at Mto wa Mbu Wesley Kileo told this reporter over the phone that Tato’s decision would be a major blow to the local people whose lives depend on tourism. 

For instance, Mr Kileo said, the tourism zone created employment to nearly 500 youth in the form of tour guides as well as workers at various campsites and lodges at Lake Natron, Engaruka ruins and Oldonyo Lengai Mountain.

“This area is dry, so, there’s no other meaningful economic undertaking other than tourism business. For the poor families living along the route, it will be a major blow to them,” he explained.

Mr Kileo said the local authorities should review their decision to avert the crisis as the high tourism season is getting underway.

Early this month, the three district councils rejected a proposal to abolish the charges put forward by Arusha regional commissioner Magessa Mulongo. 

The authorities told the RC’s appointed commission on the matter that if they abolished the charges, their budgets would be negatively impacted.Analysts say the route was a rare example of transferring tourist’s dollars to common people directly and through multiplier effects.

Mr Amasi William, a freelance tour guide in Arusha, said transferring dollars from international tourists to poor people living around tourist destinations has been a major challenge throughout East Africa and the world.

This might be true, for instance, lots of dollars are generated from Tanzania`s world-famous northern tourist circuit, but very little trickles into the pockets of ordinary people who live in its vicinity.

While the northern safari circuit covering 300km attracts over 700,000 tourists with combined revenues of $950 million, only 18 per cent, about $171 million goes to the communities through multiplier effects.
Source: The Citizen, www.thecitizen.co.tz, reported by Adam Ihucha in Arusha
Share on Google Plus

About Abduel Elinaza

This is a short description in the author block about the author. You edit it by entering text in the "Biographical Info" field in the user admin panel.