TRANSFORMATION of the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) into an authority has reached advanced stages and now there are prospects of having a National Convention Bureau (NCB) by next year.
The TTB Acting Managing Director, Ms Devota Mdachi said at the opening of a certification seminar for hoteliers and tour guides that the absence of an NCB makes it almost impossible to promote the country as a conference tourism destination.
"Not having a bureau means that everyone is doing their own thing and there is no coordination. Evidence shows that apart from tourist attractions, we now have good conference facilities and the required human resource," she said.
Ms Mdachi said that though the acquisition of accurate statistics is still a challenge, in 2013 tourists who came to the country for recreational reasons amounted to 890,000 people and of those 65,922 came for business tourism.
She said that there are possibilities that there are much more tourists who visit the country for conferences and meetings and that efforts were underway to collect the required data.
"In 2012, TTB managed to reach its one millionth target of tourists and we want to hit the 1.5 million mark in 2015. The potential in conference tourism is huge; ensuring that more people are certified will quicken the attainment of this target," she cited.
Ms Mdachi said that certification will ensure that Tanzania facilities and people are known internationally and that through effective private - public partnerships, gone will be the days of employing foreign planners to manage international conferences.
Certified Meeting Planner, Dr Rodolfo Musco who is visiting Tanzania told participants of the workshop that because meetings and conferences bring in people from different backgrounds, it was vital that planner know the different cultures and habits and take care of them.
Dr Musco said that anyone in the tourism industry needs to know that everyday they are walking on eggshells and that the memory of the tourists starts from the person stamping their passport on arrival all the way till when they go back.
"For a nation to effective enjoy the fruits of the tourism industry particularly the conference and meeting sector, there is need for a strong linkage which includes caterers, meeting security, lighting technicians, the meeting facility, and internet availability," he said.
Quoting Italian artist, Leonardo Da Vinci, who said that "those who fall in love with practice without science are like a sailor who enters a ship without a helm or a compass, and who never can be certain whither he is going," he emphasized that meeting planners are professionals and need certification.
The Tanzania Conference Services Managing Director, Ms Martha Yeronimo, the first Tanzanian planner of 14 years said that plans are underway of translating the certification into Kiswahili such that more people get access to it.
Ms Yeronimo said that a meetings and conference network was in the pipeline that will help connect people in the industry together as well as training sessions such that the goal of having more international meetings in the country is achieved.