Arusha — Upgraded guest houses are now among the preferred accommodation facilities for a significant number of foreign tourists in Arusha.
The guest houses, along with medium sized hotels, are not only preferred due to their affordability but also because of improved facilities and enhanced security.
The increasing number of foreigners using cheap accommodation emerged during a meeting between the hoteliers and the minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Hamis Kigwangala on Thursday.
The minister said the government has no problem seeing foreign tourists using the cheap hotels as long as they were fairly charged and felt secure.
"We also have no problem as long as their operators (budget hotels and guest houses) paid the required taxes to the government", he said when talking operators of medium hotels in the city.
Dr Kigwangala said the government was interested in knowing how it could assist them to improve their services and earn more revenues for the economy.
"I know of the hotels or guest houses charging between Sh40,000 and Sh70,000 per night. The foreign visitors are aware of them and would prefer due to their affordability", he said during the meeting.
The minister said he would not object to the operators of such accommodation facilities charging the foreign guests in the convertible currencies such as the US dollar.
"We are keen to put in place conducive operating environment for such hoteliers", he said, adding that the government's aim was to attract more visitors and realize increased revenues from tourism.
Although Arusha has dozens of tourist class hotels and lodges -from five to two stars - of late there had been a rapid mushrooming of upgraded budget accommodation facilities and guest houses.
Initially most of such guest houses, in particular, were in Kaloleni and Makao Mapya suburbs close to the city centre but are now spread all over the easily accessible zones.
During the peak of the tourism season,foreign tourists could be seen mingling with the locals in the bars and the eating joints in Arusha and most visited Mto-wa-Mbu and Karatu townships.
One of the operators of such accommodation facilities Charles Amani told the minister they want a win-win situation in their business so that they can make a profit and pay the required taxes.
There was a suggestion guest houses and medium size hotels be charged about $1.5 (approximately Sh2,000) as levy per bed per night.
However, there was no consensus on the matter as the owners reiterated their pleas to the government to relieve them of multiple taxes.
No statistics were given on the number of upgraded guest houses and cheap hotels in Arusha.
However, the city has about a half of the 174 registered tourist hotels in the country. Ninety one were in Arusha until two years ago.
Mt. Meru was until middle of last year the only five star hotel in the city, according to hotel star-rating released by the ministry.
The 300-room Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge joins the 40 year hotel as another five star entity within the vicinity.
The hotel star rating was announced in July after the completion of the classification exercise for Arusha and Manyara regions which started in March 2017.
The Arusha Hotel, the oldest in town having opened its doors to clients in 1890s, was dropped from the rating because it was then undergoing massive rehabilitation.
Only two other city-based hotels managed to hit a four star mark. These are the Kibo Palace Hotel and African Tulip Hotel while the towering Naura Springs and Palace were ranked three stars.