Tanzania still upbeat on tourist arrivals

The government is upbeat that tourist arrivals will pick up later this year, despite low numbers recorded at the beginning of the peak season.

The Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Adelhelm Meru, said that he was optimistic that the tourist arrivals would pick up later and revenue generation from the sector would surpass last year’s levels.

“We anticipate the rise in figures over that of last year in terms of the number of tourists and the generated income,” he told the ‘Daily News’ yesterday in an interview.

He said it was wrong to jump into conclusion on the performance of the industry basing on records of a few days only. “We can’t live in pessimism.

I can’t be pessimistic. These are only speculations basing on wrong basis. You can’t judge it from the records of a few days only,” he said.

Tourism earned the country US $1.95 billion last year up from US $1.88 US dollars in 2013 and remained the country’s top foreign exchange earner, according to Bank of Tanzania (BoT) data.

A total of 1.14 million tourists visited the country in 2014 up from 1.095 million the previous year. The visitors mostly come from Britain, Germany, the United States and Italy.

However, stakeholders in the sector are pessimistic on the prospects of tourism this year after the peak season began with low number of arrivals.

They attributed the situation to Ebola threat and worries over security in East Africa from Somalia’s al Shabaab militants. The Chairman of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO), Mr Willy Chambullo, told the ‘Daily News’ that tourist accommodation in hotels and lodges was about 45 per cent to 50 per cent by early July against 75 per cent to 90 per cent level reached in the previous two years.

Mr Chambullo said they forecast earnings from the tourism sector for this year would fall for between 25 per cent and 30 per cent as it could not recover from the Ebola fears and security threats in the East Africa.

The Member of Parliament (MP) for Mbulu Constituency, Mr Mustapha Akunaay, who is among key stakeholders in the industry said he was also skeptic about the prospects of the sector this year due to low tourist arrivals.

He said tourist arrivals were below expectations and attributed the trend to Ebola threats and security fears and the eurozone crisis that has hit one of the major tourism markets for Tanzania.

He said the October general election may have contributed to the decline in tourist arrivals due to wrong perceptions about Africa in Europe and the US of election chaos. We should brace for instability in the tourism sector.

The situation is bad,” he said in an interview. Another stakeholder, Mr Exaud Sarumbo of Arushabased Kibo Guide said tourism industry in Tanzania like in the rest of Africa was feeling the effects of Ebola fear with potential visitors hesitating to about travelling to the continent.

He said even travellers were well aware of the distances between the West African countries that had Ebola cases - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - and more popular tourist destinations were exercising caution when booking a holiday.

The bookings are made a year or even two before travelling which means it was during the outbreak of the disease and this may have scared them,” he said.

Mr Sarumbo said economic activities linked to tourism industry in Arusha Region had slowed affecting many people who rely on the sector to earn a living.
Source: Daily News, reported by Henry Lyimo, from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
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