INSECURITY is seen as a threat to tourism in the country, the sector with huge potential as the leading employer and foreign exchange earner.
Stakeholders have it that few, if any, other business sectors have the potential to boost the economy significantly and its inclusive nature in improving living conditions.
This is because tourism, unlike mining, is not a primary export item but a final good where all value addition have been done. "This means that the value added in final stages of production is done in Tanzania," the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) Executive Secretary, Mr Mustapha Akunaay, said.
Going by the 2009 statistics, the sector accounts for 17.5 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and supports about 500,000 direct employments and over 800,000 indirect. In South Africa every other tourist arrival creates five jobs.
They argued that the tourism industry brought in 1.4 billion US dollars (about 2.16tri/-) after arrival of 867,994 international tourists during the year 2012, which made the sector the second in foreign exchange revenue generation after gold.
"(However), there are many other countries with appealing attractions competing for tourism dollars, so there is no room for complacency," Mr Akunaay warned. In that vein, insecurity and poor safety for international travellers threaten the industry amid absence of the common law and regulations guiding the sector.
The stakeholders, who met in Dar es Salaam, last week, were told if a tourist is hurt it takes a considerable time to clear the bad label. TATO raised fear and urged the government to take a deliberate step to protect foreigners and tourists to boost the travellers' inflow because the sector is currently faced with undeniable challenge of security and safety.
"To repair the damage takes ages,(because) without security even best marketing efforts will fail," Mr Akunaay told about 50 stakeholders gathered to put final touches on new tourism policy and law. The new policy geared to support creation of special judicial system for cases relating to international travellers and separate police unit for tourists and diplomats.
TATO conducted two studies financed by BEST-AC on the 'impact of Crime on Tourism in Tanzania' and Review of Legal Framework on Safety and Security for Tourism in Tanzania 2012. The findings proposed two actions: review of the laws, policies and regulations pertaining to security system and introducing special police unit to cater for special groups -- like diplomats, foreigners, tourists or travellers.
"Safety and securities are vital to providing quality tourism and in tandem to this, the government should address the two recommendations, TATO Chairman Mr Leopold Kabendera told the forum. He said though there are no supporting data, tourism is creating many employment, for instance for every other tourist arrival in South Africa five jobs are created.
"I think the situation is close to Tanzania as well," the Chairman said. The government, on the other hand, has already heeded the introduction of the special police unit for tourists, late last year and 60 police are under the department but financial resources remain a key challenge issue.
"At the moment a 60-member police team patrol the streets on foot, in a move which defeated the unit's required goal... on top of that we are looking for 80m/- for an orientation course for another 240 in the next budget," the Unit Commander, ACP Mr Benedict Kitalika, said.
He said the squad lacks proper gear to institute the required safety and security for its personnel. So far the unit has prepared special uniforms for the unit that are easily identified. The police are pulled from the current workforce but are given an orientation training on how to handle the tourists.