EARLY this year, a world renowned newspaper selected Tanzania among 45 places for tourists to visit in 2012, saying: "Tanzania is coming into its own as an upscale safari destination."
The New York Times said in its January 6 edition that Tanzania emerged number seven out of the 45 selected places to go in 2012.
Reacting to the revelation, the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) managing director, Dr Aloyce Nzuki, said that the selection of Tanzania among the 45 favourable destinations was a positive thing. "We have strategies in place aimed at making Tanzania among the most favourable places to visit," said Dr Nzuki.
In its article, The New York Times quoted East African travel specialists, including Hippo Creek Safaris and Abercrombie & Kent, as saying that for the last several years, the number of tourists going to Tanzania has been edging up.
"But it wasn't until several violent attacks on visitors to neighbouring Kenya that the numbers really took off, as Tanzania started to absorb skittish Kenya-bound safari seekers," said the newspaper. It said not that Tanzania is coasting along solely on Kenya's troubles; it always had Mount Kilimanjaro, after all.
"And now other attractions are being discovered, too -- places like Gibb's Farm, a small lodge from which guests can hike to the Ngorongoro Crater area, a prime destination for big game viewing," said the paper.
In addition, said The New York Times, the opening of exclusive safari reserves like the Singita Grumeti along the Serengeti plains and the upscale camps managed by Nomad Tanzania and Chem Chem are evidence that the country's tourist infrastructure is becoming more sophisticated, perhaps even catching up to Kenya's.
Under its sub-title: Stability and sustainable tourism restore luster to Africa's pearl, The New York Times said marred by the murderous regime of Idi Amin in the 1970s, Uganda remained largely off the typical African safari tour map. "But after more than two decades of relative stability under President Yoweri Museveni, the country that Winston Churchill called the "pearl of Africa" is regaining some of its allure for tourists," said the paper.
The paper said the country is perhaps best known to tourists as the home of half of the world's last remaining mountain gorillas and this year there are more opportunities to spot the elusive creatures. The paper said beyond up-close gorilla encounters, Uganda is also the source of the Nile, boasts mountains that are among the highest in Africa -- the Mountains of the Moon in Rwenzori Mountains National Park -- and offers formidable white-water rapids for thrill seekers.
The paper ranked Panama number one place to visit in 2012, saying it has been 12 years since Panama regained control of its canal and the country's economy is booming. "Cranes stalk the skyline of the capital, Panama City, where high-rises sprout one after the next and immigrants arrive daily from around the world," said The New York Times.
It is under such projections that three Nature Reserves in the country believe Tanzania holds a comparative advantage of earning more from international tourism receipts per visitor. In various interviews with 'Daily News', tourism heads from Kilombero Nature Reserve, Nilo Nature Reserve and Amani Nature Reserve said they expect to double tourism prospects next year.
The Head of tourism at Amani Nature Reserve Tourists Godfrey Msumari said they expect to double tourists in 2013 following a significant funding from Eastern Arc Mountains Conservation Endowment Fund (EAMCEF) which has enabled them to scale up tourist infrastructure in the reserve.
He said that despite being among areas endowed with high-profile tourism destinations, poor mechanism for advertising local sightseeing attractions was the main factor that crippled the country's tourism. Amani Nature Reserve is located in East Usambara.
He said they were currently getting 800 tourists per year and target is to double the number next year. The reserve has over 344 bird species and 100 species of trees, surrounded by 19 villages. Mr Msumari said that of the fees charged on tourists every year, 20 percent of the income is shared with villages surrounding the reserve.
The Kilombero Nature Reserve range Manager Frank Sima said the Eastern Arc Mountains Conservation Endowment Fund (EAMCEF) has funded the Nature reserves to put up infrastructure to facilitate tourists as they go around the attractions. He said they get 20 tourists per year, many of them from Germany, but noted that the number should grow for the Nature Reserve to exploit its full potential.
He said many of them come through Lushoto, to Sadani National Park and to Amani Nature Reserve. He said poor tourism promotional mechanisms should not hinder Tanzania from fully exploiting the sector. In the current fiscal year, the country is spending about 5bn/- to promote domestic tourism, basically through improving services and advertising tourism attraction sites abroad.
Tourism contribution to the national GDP has been growing from eight per cent in 2000, to 13.4 per cent in 2005, before jumping to 15 per cent in 2006 and 15.5 in 2007. It however dropped to 14.3 in 2008. It is expected that the number of tourists visiting Africa would more than double in the next 15 years, improving prospects for the industry, as there is an increase in number of both natural and cultural attractions.
The minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Khamis Kagasheki, said recently that despite being among countries endowed with highprofile tourism destinations, poor mechanism for advertising local sightseeing attractions was the main factor that crippled the country's tourism.
However, he expressed his optimism that the sector would in the near future come to its full potential as many countries are now chipping-in to work closely with Tanzania to promote tourism. Mr Kagasheki said in the coming fiscal year, his ministry was planning to spend about 5bn/- for promoting domestic tourism, basically through improving services and advertising tourism attraction sites abroad.
"The recently initiated coalition between Tanzania Tourism Board (TTB) and Ethiopian Airline (ET) is another positive endeavour in marketing and promoting the country's tourist destinations worldwide," he noted.
As per the pact signed recently between the two sides, Tanzania will, among other things, explore and implement activities to promote tourist traffic to Tanzania using Ethiopian Airline services by advertising on the ET flight magazines and direct marketing of Tanzania tour operations.
On a positive note,the first time in the history of Tanzania's tourism sector both the government and private sector are on the same page as far as promoting the nation's acclaimed attractions on the international scene.
In a landmark case of public-private partnership to improve the tourism business environment, Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) and Tourism Confederation of Tanzania (TCT) joined hands to develop an 'International Marketing Strategy for Tanzania as a tourist destination."
This drive has been financed by BEST AC (best-ac. org). For the five year strategy to work; TTB, which is the public sector body mandated to promote tourism and TCT, representing the private sector in the industry, will need to work together, as well as with other bodies which have stakes in the industry.
Natural Resources and Tourism, minister Khamis Kagasheki commended the publicprivate initiative saying proper implementation would see the sector reach new heights. Joint efforts will help Tanzania to "effectively and appropriately manage the complexity of today's tourism development and marketing challenges," the minister said, assuring that his ministry fully supports the strategy.
Mr Kagasheki said the sector was one of the few economic sectors in the World in general and Tanzania in particular that was growing strongly and very importantly, creating the much needed jobs.