Arusha/Dar es Salaam — The impact of the coronavirus is already hurting the tourism industry - what with hotels and conference centres losing business due to booking cancellations.
About 95 percent of the hotels in Zanzibar have temporarily been closed, with some on the Mainland following suit.
"There are hotels which have already closed operations, having forecast that there'll be no visitors in the near future," said the Hotels Association of Tanzania chief executive officer, Ms Nura-Lisa Karamagi.
"It's a low season now and some hotels do close. But this time even those which do not stop are closing operations. Others are retrenching staff or reducing salaries due to the slowdown. Remember the coronavirus outbreak has come when there is a global recession that would possibly last for a long time," she added.
Conference centres hit
State-run convention centres are set to lose over Sh1 billion if the postponed conferences are cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
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Meetings and allied events which were to be held between March and May this year have become another casualty of the global epidemic.
The Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) and the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre (JNICC) were to earn a total of Sh1.008 billion. But, due to the outbreak of the pandemic, the meetings and social events havebeen postponed or cancelled outright.
The world-famous AICC event organizers were to pay Sh491m during the period and Sh516m for the Dar es Salaam-based JNICC.
"This is the impact of the coronavirus as far as the conferences are concerned," said Elishilia Kaaya, the AICC managing director who also manages the Dar facility.
He said most of the events were only postponed, and he is optimistic that they could be held once the worst Covid-19 fears are over.
"There is still some hope. In any case, we are guided by government pronouncements," he told The Citizen over the weekend.
One of the cancelled events was a conference which was to be held at AICC last Friday by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA).
What JNICC was to earn from the recent SADC ministerial meetings dropped to Sh93m, from Sh193m, after it was transformed into video conferencing. Only two of the conferences earmarked at AICC for the March-May period were to be organized by the continental bodies, a departure from the past.
They are the Arusha-based African Union Advisory Board on Corruption, and the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group.
The two organizations were to pay AICC a combined total of $120,820 for the series of their meetings booked at the venue during the period.
According to AICC, discussions are still going on between the two convention centres on other meetings which were to earn Sh53m
"For the time being, we can't say exactly that they are being postponed, cancelled or re-scheduled to other dates.
"We are still at the peak of Covid-19 fears," said one official, noting that there was no official information on the planned 1st Global Geopark Conference that was to be held in Arusha in May. The May 18th-to-20th event was to be jointly organized by NCAA and Unesco - and was expected to attract 400 delegates, minting Sh176m for AICC.