THE government in collaboration with various stakeholders are working out strategies to increase tourist arrivals in the country.
The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki, told delegates to the meeting held in Dar es Salaam that the low number of tourist arrivals currently registered at 800,000 annually gave him sleepless nights.
Ambassador Kagasheki said the neighbouring Rwanda received 600,000 tourists annually, a difference of only 200,000.
"This is shocking because Tanzania has a lot to offer to tourists in terms of attractions," the minister said. The government had in the past targeted over 1.0 tourist arrivals.
"I will be lying to you if I say that I sleep comfortably at night, with that small number of tourists visiting the country compared to our neighbours, including Rwanda which is still struggling with its national reconstruction," he explained.
He said the government wants to work with the private stakeholders in the tourism sector to get their ideas, opinion, views and plans on how to improve international and domestic tourism in the country.
Reviewing outdated laws and policies governing the industry is one area at the top of the Minister's agenda to turn around the tourism industry in the country. He said the few months he's been in the ministry, a number of glaring questions have come up, with regard to the small number of tourist arrivals.
"We have so many tourist attractions and we have not opened to the public. What is the problem, why are we not having more than a million tourists coming into the country?"
According to last year statistics, Ambassador Kagasheki said last year Kenya received 1.2 million tourists, Zimbabwe with all its political problems received a staggering 2.4 million, Rwanda 600,000 and Uganda over 900,000.
"This does not make sense at all, it's time we turn around the figures and we can only do this by deliberating with you, the major players in the industry. "The government is ready to work with you to bring about the changes, with your help we want to turn around the industry," he explained.
He also noted that emphasis has always been on international tourism, neglecting domestic market which can also be a good source of income. He said the private sector had the feeling that the government is less friendly. "We know that you are not charity organisations and driven by profit," he said.