THERE is new hope for the tourism sector thanks to a lucrative partnership of the British Council, the Hotel Association of Tanzania (HAT) and the National Tourism College aimed at teaching English language to hotel staff.
The British Council Senior Training Consultant, Mr Mark Hindle, told the 'Daily News' in an exclusive interview that the trio had started a six-week pilot project where the certification course would be conducted at the tourism college.
"We are very excited with the project. It is no secret that there is a huge tourism potential in the country in both employment and revenue but it is unfortunate that an average employee hardly has proper education and we are trying to address that," he said.
Mr Hindle explained that the British Council had a Global Product that aimed at providing people with a functional language but that they had modelled it to fit the Tanzanian setting for the tourism sector. He said that being a certification meant that any hotel employee who took the course had to pass it and that it entailed a 20-hour duration for five days a week in accordance to the different shifts of the hotels.
"We picked the national college as the place to have the course conducted because we want the product to be seen as a tourism product," he said.
The consultant said that the course that started on Monday last week had received overwhelming response where hotels like Holiday Inn, Southern Sun, Protea, Oysterbay, Hyatt and Serena had already committed their employees. There are future plans of having a similar course for middle management employees who will also benefit only that it will involve more advanced communication.
Next month, the National College of Tourism in Arusha with the assistance of the British Council will for the first time start conducting general English courses and later these courses will be open to the public. "One of the biggest attractions about this project, when you leave aside the aspect of having more employees in the tourism sector with a functional language, is the issue of affordability of the course that goes for 200,000/-," he said.
The target of the course is intended to shift in October to tour operators because by then the peak season would have reduced and that that would be the time when the project will be re-launched. The HAT Executive Secretary, Ms Fatma Khamis, said that guests had expressed their frustration of having to repeat their needs and inquiries a number of times before an employee would understand, thus necessitating the course.
Ms Khamis said that lack of communication meant that the tourist would not get adequate information and may not take full advantage of what Tanzania had to offer which in terms means that the sum total affected the country's competitiveness within the region.
"Tourism is all about an experience and service is communicated through language. Tourists are also information savvy," she said.
Ms Khamis said with the assistance of the British Council, they expected that the pilot project would help immensely to determine the depth of the language gap that exists in the tourism sector.
She explained that the British Council would then come up with tailor made courses in regards to the different needs of the tourism sector in regards to the hotel departments including housekeeping, front office, maintenance to mention a few.
"As tourism is a continuous business, the need for effective communication with the tourists will always be there. After the pilot, we have no doubt that the British Council will be able to professionally re-design the courses and ensure continuity as this is in plan," she said.