13 February 2013

Tanzania: Awards Just the Tonic Tanzania Needs to Boost Tourism

THE crowning of Serengeti National Park as the best of the Seven New Natural Wonders of Africa as three Tanzanian entries got respectable slots in continental rankings early this week is real cause for celebration.

According to the event's organisers, Serengeti stood out in the list due to its "astonishing seasonal migration of millions of animals". The animals, mainly wildebeests, move to Maasai Mara in Kenya during dry seasons. Ngorongoro Crater, which is affectionately known as "The Bowl" in the parlance of lovers of nature, got a slot among the seven winners.

The list also included Mount Kilimanjaro, which has over the years appealed to climbers from home and abroad. Going by statistics, Ngorongoro Crater is the most popular spot that attracts more than 500,000 visitors a year.

The mighty Serengeti appeals to an average total of 350,000 tourists a year and Mount Kilimanjaro receives 55,000 climbers each year. These may be hefty figures but the nation must brace for a heftier boost in tourist arrivals in the near future, and this was not the end of the glorious story.

The Seven Wildlife Wonders of Africa list has taken in leopards, crocodiles, elephants, hippos, rhinos, mountain gorillas and lions, all of which are indigenous species in Tanzanian wildlife sanctuaries. These developments translate directly to a potential boom to tourism.

The nation should expect a surge in tourist arrivals in the near future for the spectacle is akin to a robust tourism advertisement. Tanzania envisages creating a friendlier tourism climate that would see the number of arrivals climbing from the current 800,000 to 1.6 million visitors annually by the year 2015.

Yet the most unpalatable fact remains - and that is not enough effort is made to advertise Tanzania as a leading tourism destination. But while we praise the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism for its quest to double the number of tourist arrivals by 2015 we tend to forget the stark fact that the nation has too few hotel beds and other facilities.

And most of its feeder roads are impassable. This means that Kenya, which logs 1.5 million tourist arrivals every year, will keep sprinting ahead in the tourism industry if too little or nothing is done to sell Tanzania as a tourist destination more vigorously. It is high time the government took notice.

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