20 July 2009

Tanzania: Kempinski Launches Lodge in Serengeti

Arusha — The Kempinski Hotels Company has launched a five-star lodge in Serengeti National Park with a promise from its developer to invest in more luxury hotels in Tanzania.

The chairman of the hotel developer, Ali Saeed Albwardy of ASB Tanzania Limited, promised that there is more to come.

"We promise to build more hotels in Tanzania," he told President Jakaya Kikwete who inaugurated the US$50 million Bilila Lodge Kempinski.

"We are ready to invest in more hotels because the investment atmosphere is right. We have been in Tanzania for five years and already we have invested in Kilimanjaro Hotel, Kempinski in Dar es Salaam and Zamani Hotel in Zanzibar," he added.

The Bilila Lodge Kempinski with 160 beds is located close to the bewildering route of annual mass migration of millions of wildebeests, half a million zebras and thousands of antelopes that move from Serengeti National Park to Kenya's Maasai Mara Wildlife Park in November in search of green pastures. This spectacle attracts hundreds of visitors to watch the massive migration on the Tanzania and Kenya sides as best illustrated in the film "Serengeti Shall Never Die."President Kikwete thanked Mr. Albwardy "for showing faith in Tanzania in these times of global financial down turn."

He lauded the world class hotel saying: "Bilila Lodge Kempinski is one of the best I have seen. It's spectacular and an architectural marvel of its kind. I have a big passion for wildlife and have been to all Tanzania national wildlife parks, but Bilila Lodge is a class of its own."

He said Bilila lodge, one of four hotels in Serengeti National Park, "increases the visibility of Tanzania even as the park is classified as a UNESCO's world heritage."

The president said although one study by a USA firm said the 15,000 square kilometre Serengeti park was capable of accommodating ten more hotels, he cautioned the Tanzania government saying: "You should go steadily at it. Insist on high-class hotels. Don't allow low-class hotels. They must reflect low volume with high-value tourism, else it will destroy the national park."

Mr. Albwardy concurred with Mr. Kikwete that the Serengeti park authority needed to be cautious on allowing construction of hotels in the national park.

Kikwete instructed his government to liaise with districts surrounding the park to ensure they don't permit the construction of many budget hotels as they could lead to flooding the wildlife park with cheap tourists.

To date tourism contributes 17% of Tanzania's Gross National Product (GDP) and 25% of foreign earnings. The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ms. Shamsa Mwangunga, in a speech read by the Chairman Tanzania National Parks, Mr. Modestus Lilunguru, said the Serengeti was recognized in 1951 by the colonial government. It has the largest concentration of wildebeests in the world, big and small ruminants, many types of birds, and in 2006 it was recognized as the 'Seventh Wonder of the World' and has since then attracted thousands of tourists, increasing by 15% annually. Besides the four hotels in the national park, there are several tented camps - altogether providing 3,400 beds per day. She said with such capacity in northern Tanzania, it was time to focus on developing the southern tourism sector that encompasses Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha and Katavi game parks.

The government is considering preserving the Ihefu marshland in the Ruaha river valley that has a large variety of birds population.Tanzania also has marine parks on Mafia Island and in Zanzibar, while the Rufiji river delta is a marvel of mangrove forests that line the distributaries, and one of the richest breeding grounds for king prawns.

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