Tanzania's Breakthrough in Tourism

THIS has certainly been a momentous week. Our leader, President Magufuli, was on hand to receive yet another long-distance plane his government has bought, which will soon make a dozen plus planes for the national airline, Air Tanzania.

A dozen planes? Why not! Within only three years of his first tenure of office, the planes-two airbuses or 'bombardiers' of this world-have been bought and more are on the way to beef up our national flag carrier, Air Tanzania Corporation (ATCL).

According to the President, the national flag carrier, Air Tanzania is making good business- making good profits operationally as an air travel business- within only three years of its revival.

But we have come a long way. As most people may agree, every passing day, the need and urgency to have a viable air transport industry in this country has assumed increased importance.

This country, which is larger than Britain and Germany put together in terms of landmass, needs a two-pronged approach to maximize economic development.

Before President Magufuli's initiative to beef up Air Tanzania, road transport was predominant with railway and air transport assuming second fiddle, which left a lot to be desired in terms of faster, and safer movement of people locally and visitors to this country.

In the intervening period, given this over-reliance on road transport, the cost has been terribly high- not a single week passes without reckoning with an escalating toll of fatal road accidents. The consequences of cramming roads with vehicles of all types are not difficult to see.

A balanced transport network both on the land and in the air would make great difference offering our people alternative means of transport for their own good and the good of the national economy on a higher plane.

An even bigger factor is related to the overall scope of the national economy, which is, to a large extent, remarkably supported by tourism.

It is both a geographical and historical factor that Tanzania is among forefront global tourism spots.

In the modern world, the most reliable and faster means of travel for people across the globe is via air transport. How has this country been fairing in terms of air transport with tourism as a focal point?

This is an important question. It is in this context that one should commend the Magufuli Administration in his apparent priority focus on tourism as is seen by his resolve to commit public funds to purchase top in the market airplanes.

In the modern day, most countries aspire to have a national airline. We in Tanzania have one- Air Tanzania. It has been there since the old good days of the Founder President of this country, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere-that is 57 years ago. How is it fairing? What should be done to make it tick?

To make the airline tick is precisely the agenda of the present day Magufuli administration as we have seen him a couple of times, this week included receiving long distance planes capable of taking passengers to Europe and Asia.

A couple of years back has been the encouraging news that a number of Tanzanian public companies had offered to recapitalize Air Tanzania in the sense of having shares in the running of the national airline.

These were the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), Ngorongoro Conservation, the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB), the Tanzania Port Authority (TPA), and the Tanzania Investment Bank.

Hearing this news, I was very happy and most relieved. First, who said that government owned firms were "hopeless" destined to be privatized most of the time?

Those reading these lines may remember the pressure brought to bear on this country by external lending agencies to move to privatize government owned or public firms twenty years ago.

Where is this country now? Are we better off in terms of industries and factories, in terms of jobs for our people as we were during the Socialist Administration of Mwalimu Nyerere?

The firms mentioned above who had offered to recapitalize Air Tanzania are all public firms and one sees no privately owned firm that has come with the offer to recapitalize Air Tanzania!

This reminds one of the old good days when the airline was launched supported by the country's own resources during the days of the Mwalimu Nyerere Administration.

During those days of the socialist agenda, the country had its development partners who appreciated its socialist path, namely the Scandinavian and Nordic countries including Canada. In fact, its early fleet of planes originated from these countries, known then as the 'Fokker Friendship' planes.

Indeed, there is room for growth for a national airline in this country taking into context the growing need for both land and air transport. If impoverished Bangladesh or neighboring Rwanda has been able to put up a strong air transport sector, why not Tanzania?

Surely, one can be sure of an efficient and sustainable Air Tanzania. And this is for the good reason that Tanzania's domestic market is yet to be fully exploited.

Now than ever before, people want to move around faster and comfortably to meet their travel needs and business obligations. This is not to mention of the potentiality of an external market- what with this country's unique tourist attractions.

Fortunately, the national airline, which operates in the name of a limited liability company, ATCL, has well trained professional staff such as pilots and engineers around since the early days of the founder President Mwalimu Nyerere.

Indeed, Tanzania has the potential to make an air travel hub for East Africa-its northern tourism circuit taken into account-not to mention of its sea outlets-which factors should make its Air Tanzania as viable as those airlines in the Gulf.

On the other hand, there is now the need and urgency for Tanzania to promote its tourism attractions as globally renowned -what with the world-famous Kilimanjaro mountain and unique wildlife reserves, to mention but a few.

This brings me to the recently launched television station-the Tanzania Safari Channel-a subsidiary of the public TV station, Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC).

It has been a very good initiative to have this Channel in place, appropriately named- Tanzania Safari Channel. You, reading this perspective; can follow it, depending on the level of broadcast decoder you may have connected to your TV set.

I have been able to follow it from time to time. It is a good channel, may be even more useful to would be visitors and tourists to Tanzania.

My only recommendation to improve this Channel is to have English language sub-titles in some of the documentaries being run in Kiswahili, our national language; for the benefit of the would be tourists to this country.

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