Arusha — Hotels and lodges in Arusha Region are cashing in on a rare boom in business not seen for years - thanks to dozens of high-profile scheduled conferences.
From the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge - until recently virtually deserted - to newly-opened outfits in town, it's all brisk business as hundreds of delegates descend upon the metropolis that is also the hub of the world-famous Northern Tourist Circuit in Tanzania
"For the first time in a long time, we are seeing our rooms occupancy rates shoot upwards of 50 per cent," said Paul Madinda, general manager of the towering Palace Hotel in the heart of the city.
He said for the last four years or so, the average room occupancy had hardly exceeded 30 per cent, indicating a sharp decline in the hospitality business.
The 200-room hotel near the landmark Clock Tower mostly hosts business travellers and, at times, delegates to meetings of the East African Community (EAC) whose headquarters is in Arusha.
Mr Madinda was upbeat about the inflow of visitors, saying it was a boom for hotels and lodges which had been severely hit by business decline from 2016.
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A random survey by The Citizen showed that the city had been flooded with visitors beginning two weeks ago - with indications that the trend would continue until the second week of December.
The influx of mostly conference delegates has posed a challenge to both hotel operators and conference organizers who had to jostle for the available meeting halls.
The Corridor Spring hotel - recently dormant businesswise - was a hive of activity from Monday as some conference organizers seeking accommodation for their delegates were turned away.
"Because we were fully booked, we directed them to other hotels nearby, including Kibo Palace and Gold Crest," an official of the outfit said on Wednesday.
The hotel was brimming with guests as it hosted a regional conference for civil society organizations - and another one for local dentists.
The situation was virtually replicated at the 40-year old Mt. Meru Hotel and the recently-opened five-star Gran Melia on the leafy suburbs of Arusha.
The latter is the newest hospitality establishment with all state-of-the-art facilities befitting a tourism hub and conference city.
Since its recent opening, it had hosted a series of high-profile meetings - and is the venue of the EAC Business and Investments Summit which kicked off in Arusha on Thursday. The meeting, organized by the East African Business Council (EABC), was expected to host at least 500 delegates, including CEOs from corporate bodies in the region.
Mount Meru - another top-notch hotel with a golf course - has remained on the radar, with regional and international meetings filling most of its rooms.
This week, it was the venue of a regional (EAC) tourism forum organized ahead of yesterday's business summit, as well as a conference of animal health researchers.
Another hotel. the 'Four Points by Sheraton' - commonly known simply as the Arusha Hotel - is the oldest hotel in town, and retains its Victorian-style architecture.