FORMER US President Barack Obama wound up his eight-day vacation in Serengeti National Park yesterday, showering praises on Tanzania's superb conservation of the tourist attractions.
Speaking at Kilimanjaro International Airport upon arrival from Grumeti in Serengeti, Mr Obama said the world's famous Serengeti has been the thriller and eye-opener for him and his family.
He described the Serengeti as the unique heritage that Tanzania should strive to maintain, imploring other countries to emulate Tanzania in sustainably conserving their heritages.
The 44th US President pledged to motivate more Americans to visit and see the natural wonders of Tanzania, saying he will specifically persuade businesspersons to come and invest in the tourism sector, which he described as highly important for the national economy.
The Obama family arrived in Tanzania on July 8, in the morning, but refused media coverage on his private stay until his departure day, citing privacy and security as reasons.
He was received by Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Minister Dr Augustine Mahiga who also saw him off yesterday, presenting him with a letter and gift from President John Magufuli.
Grumeti is the centre of great migration of wildebeests that is often described as a set circuit occurring between Tanzania's Serengeti plains in the south and Kenya's Maasai Mara in the north between May and December, though the reality of the migration is more complex.
Mr Obama described Tanzania as his home, citing a street in Dar es Salaam that bears his name. He promised to visit Tanzania again.
At KIA, yesterday, as was last Sunday, Mr Obama spent little time, checking with immigration issues and changing flights. Dr Mahiga said that having spent the week in Tanzania, Mr Obama left for Kenya where he is scheduled to attend the inauguration of a sports and vocational centre that his sister Auma Obama founded.
From Kenya, Mr Obama will head to South Africa later today, to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa and speak at an event in honour of the late Nelson Mandela's birthday in Johannesburg.
He will also participate in a town hall with 200 new leaders of the Obama Foundation in Africa, including Tanzanians.
Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner Anna Mghwira challenged tourism organisations to be more innovative and link up with their foreign counterparts to advertise the country and its tourist attractions.
Tanzania National Park Authority (TANAPA) Corporate Communications Manager Paschal Shelutete said Obama and other bigwigs visited Tanzanian parks, thanks to the authority's conservation efforts to ensure that the parks' ecological systems are maintained.
Kilimanjaro Airports Development Company (KADCO) Managing Director Engineer Christopher Mukama said the visits by Obama and other dignitaries testify that KIA and KADCO can handle any kind of visitors and flights.
He said renovation of the airport infrastructure will boost business and tourism as more flights will land at and take off from KIA.
Engineer Mukoma advised Air Tanzania Company Limited to strive for good business and boost tourism following the revival of the airline with new planes.