Once a sleeping giant,Tanzania overtakes Kenya

For the second time in five years, Tanzania tourism sector earned $1.56 billion (Sh2.574 trillion) surpassing Kenya’s $1.3 billion (Sh2.14 trillion), a difference of $260 million, The Citizen has learnt.

This unveils the fact that Dar es Salaam has more of the world’s class tourist attractions compared to Nairobi.

Not only have WB data pointed out that but also said that Tanzania received $1.3 billion in 2008 compared to Kenya’s $752 million during the same period, all accrued from tourism.

It is understood that in 2008, the first time Dar surpassed Nairobi, Kenya was passing through a difficult period due to the post-election violence that left about 1,100 dead and over 600,000 others internally displaced, thus profoundly affecting tourism sector.

But, in the year 2012, Dar es Salaam surpassed Nairobi at the time when the latter was enjoying very stable conditions politically and economically. However, this means that if Tanzania is to fully address the myriad challenges facing how it operates tourism sector, it would remain the dominant giant in the region.

Tanzania has 31,365 hotel rooms as compared to Kenya’s 24, 354 and South Africa’s 61,417.

There are about 390,000 hotel rooms in sub-Sahara Africa. Unbranded guest houses and lodges dominate accommodation facilities while only ten per cent or about 35,200 rooms meet international standards, according to data released by WB.

South Africa has about half the region’s stock of international standard accommodation. Kenya, however, has 2,284 international standard rooms compared to Tanzania’s 1,588, while occupancy rate is 92 per cent for Kenya and 43 per cent for Tanzania.

“We forecast that employment in travel and tourism in 2021 will be 463,800 for Tanzania and 273,500 for Kenya,” the WB report says. Currently, Tanzania is the second top tourist destination by accommodation, after South Africa, according to the report by WB.

Challenging the myth

These fresh data by WB challenge pre-conceived myth about Tanzania’s tourism indicating the great potential of the sector and how it can transform the country’s economy.

The details that are included in a recent World Bank report shows that not only has Tanzania tourism earnings and arrivals surpassed Kenya’s but also that the proceeds from tourism brought back to the country several times higher than those from exported cash crops like coffee and cotton.Titled ‘Tourism in Africa: Harnessing Tourism for Growth and Improved Livelihoods’, the report argues that tourism can transform the economies of Tanzania and other African nations and help in reducing poverty only if infrastructure and tourist facilities such as hotels were to be improved.

“A frequent criticism about tourism is that the destination receives only a portion of the total cost of a tourist’s expenditure. But this belief ignores the inputs, entrepreneurship, and risks taken by businesses in the countries of tourist origin,” the report noted.

The report says Tanzania captures about half the global value chain in tourism packages sold in Europe, but this estimate excludes discretionary spending by tourists.

“On the other hand coffee growers in Tanzania can only expect to receive about 4 per cent of the final retail price of the coffee sold in supermarkets in Europe. If basic processing, packaging, and transportation are added, the country still only captures about 8 per cent of the final retail price of coffee,” the report said.

It is possible to increase tourism receipts beyond the 50 per cent currently availed, the report says, by making sure tourist facilities procured local services and products for their businesses.

The report noted with concern that most hotel furniture used in tourist accommodation facilities are imported from China and that no trade link existed between local tourism enterprises and the local furniture industry.

“The other challenge is how to manage and mitigate the social and environmental impact of large tourism sectors. Tanzania’s northern circuit is overloaded and the country is trying to create new areas for tourism growth in the south, in the Selous Reserve, Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia Islands,” the report says.

Tourism stakeholders have agreed with the report saying it portrayed correctly the potential of Tanzania’s tourism.

Mustapha Boay Akunaay the Tanzania association of Tour Operators (Tato) Executive Secretary said the increase of tourism earnings tells how important the sector is to the country economy.

“This reveals the commitment of tour operators and the government in marketing and ensuring security of tourists in the country is paying off,” said Mr Akunaay. 

But more must be done in terms of legislative environment and improvement of transport infrastructure and accommodation facilities.“For years it was termed that agriculture and minerals were the key foreign exchange earners, but the truth is that tourism is the major player,” said Mr  Akunaay

In overall performance in terms of contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product valued at $29 billion, agriculture is still the significant contributor.

However, for the country to earn more from the sector the government needs to establish reliable infrastructures especially airports, hotels, railways and road network.
Source: The Citizen, reported from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
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