Hotel room crisis as Obama arrival nears

An acute shortage of hotel rooms has hit Dar es Salaam ahead of next week’s visit by US President Barack Obama.
 
All major five and four-star hotels have been fully booked, some for over a week, with demand for accommodation said to be growing every day, industry sources confirmed.
 
A spot check by The Citizen at the weekend established that most of the hotels in the central business district and those along the Indian Ocean beach were booked in advance by different parties accompanying the US leader.
 
President Obama is scheduled to arrive next Monday and stay in Dar es Salaam for a night in the last leg of his eight-day tour of Africa. In tow will be 800 people, according to information deduced from his itinerary.
 
The party includes some 500 American businessmen, hundreds of secret service agents, some of whom are already in the country and representatives of scores of global media outlets.
 
President Obama, his wife Michelle, their two daughters and close aides will stay in one of the top hotels that will be completely secluded prior to his arrival.
 
Advance party
 
An advance itinerary dispatch by the White House indicated some 65 secret service personnel will be in Dar es Salaam to secure crucial facilities while laying the ground for the would be hectic tour.
 
These will be later joined by 80 to 100 additional agents to work rotating shifts, with round-the-clock coverage, for Obama’s and his family’s security details, counterassault teams and logistics coordinators.
 
High-profile meetings
 
The VIP accommodation crisis has been exacerbated by the fact that Dar will play host to two other major conferences over the same period. About 15 heads of state and government and business executives from around the world will attend the Smart Partnership Dialogue meeting from June 28 to July 1.
 
Women business executives, former first ladies, Laura Bush and Cherie Blair will join about eight first ladies from across Africa in a two-day African Ladies’ summit scheduled for July 2-3 in the city. Both the presidents and first ladies would bring with them scores of aides and body guards.
 
The UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, Ms Justine Greening, is also in town already on her first visit to see the impact of the UK’s development efforts.
 
Her office said she is scheduled to visit Dar es Salaam’s Capital Markets and Securities Exchange and a large commercial rice plantation in Kilombero Valley to understand how her country can help Tanzanian businesses to grow and create more jobs.
 
A combined capacity of 1,300 rooms in fairly luxury hotels such as Serena, Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro Hotel, Southern Sun, Double Tree, Holiday Inn and White Sand were all taken. “Our hotel is fully booked from June 27 to July 2. We are now referring guests to Bagamoyo,” a front desk attendant who wished not to be named in the media told The Citizen on Friday.
 
The Hilton Group’s Double Tree Hotel in Oyster Bay area with 140 rooms was reserved for members of the media traveling with President Obama.
 
An official at the World Bank offices in Dar es Salaam who handled some of the bookings confided to The Citizen that top government officials, NGO executives and CEOs of private organisations with local representation resorted to other means after missing out on the bookings.
 
“These are mostly those who made late decisions to be in Dar es Salaam and had either to be taken in by embassy establishments. Some absent expatriates also gave up their houses for a few days at a fee,” said the World Bank official who requested for anonymity due to security and privacy concerns.
 
DITF also taking place
 
The Obama visit and the high profile meetings will coincide with the Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair (DITF) that brings scores of business executives, large entrepreneurs and representatives of trade fairs from various countries in the world. The trade fair will take place from June 28 up to July 8 at the Mwl J.K Nyerere trade fair grounds in the city.
 
Officials of TanTrade, the host of the fair have already expressed concerns over lack of executive accommodation for their guests because of the Obama visit and the other meetings.
 
The Tanzania Trade Development Authority (TanTrade) acting Director General Ms Jacqueline Maleko told The Citizen at the weekend that the authority was struggling to find accommodation to exhibitors.
 
Contrary to last year’s DITF, in which only exhibitors from 11 countries took part, this time around exhibitors from more than 30 countries with over 300 foreign firms have confirmed participation.
 
Three-star hotels fully booked
 
A further survey by The Citizen indicated that the three-star hotels at the city centre have also been fully booked. Hotel managers in the Kisutu and Kipunguni areas in the city centre told The Citizen that they had to turn away bookings because they have no space left.
Source: The Citizen, reported from Dar es Salaam  
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