Arusha — Owners of tourist firms and stakeholders of the tourism sector in Tanzania, including retired conservationists, have cited five major factors that make tourists visiting the country not to pay a second visit.
The sector contributes 17.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and as well contributes 25 percent of forex earnings to the country, which is currently visited by 1.2 million tourists. The government targets that by 2025, the country should have receive at least some five million tourists to grow forex earnings to $6 billion from $2.5 billion per annum.
Talking to The Citizen recently, the stakeholders pointed out such factors as high costs incurred by tourists when visiting Tanzania, unsatisfying customer experience in the hands of hoteliers and other service providers.
According to them, poor infrastructure, a number of tourist companies that fail to meet the promises they give to their customers and lack of professionalism by workers, some of who, in a number of occasions, defraud tourist. Speaking to The Citizen, retired conservationist Erastus Lufungulo, who is now the director of Burudika Tourist Company, said tourists were forced to spend more because there were no direct flights from the source countries including Europe and the US to Tanzania.
"Our tourism is costly. This is because vising the country now is more expensive than vising Kenya or South Africa," he revealed.
According to him, a multitude of tourist companies that lack the merits of operating the business and tour guiding lacks professional workers, causing problems.
"Some tour guides take money from tourists, but strangely you can't find them at airports to receive the tourists. Even when they show up to receive tourists, who pay them a lot of money, they do not provide quality services to them," Mr Lufungulo said.
For his part, Tanzania Tour Guides Association (TTGA) chairman Emmanuel Mollel said a multitude of taxes imposed on tourist companies and tour guides caused tourism costs to be unaffordable to most tourists, who fail to revisit the country.
"There are too many taxes as each passing day new taxes are introduced, forcing owners of tourist firms to hike costs so that they can make a profit," said Mr Mollel. He questioned why some airlines were charging $500 more per ticket from Europe to Tanzania compared to when landing at other airports in neighbouring countries.
Tanzania Porters Organisation (TPO) secretary Loshiye Mollel said continued existence of tourist firms with unprofessional workers had been a problem to tourists.
"So far there are some tourist companies against which we have opened cases at police stations for using our members to guide tourists on the mountain and failing to pay them. For such a conduct, what sort of experience do they give to tourists visiting the country?" queried Mr Mollel.
Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (Tato) executive secretary Sirili Akko admitted that the tourism sector was facing a number of challenges that they have submitted to the government for action.
"I don't want to speak too much on this issue. But I think our members will explain as to why their customers do not return after visiting the country," said Mr Akko.
For his part, TLPO chairman Sammy Mdia said a multitude of over 20 taxes caused tourism to be costly in the country and that poor condition of infrastructure also was another tumbling block.
Opening the annual meeting for editors and senior reporters in the tourism industry, Natural Resources and Tourism permanent secretary Aloyce Nzuki called upon journalists to deliberate on why only 20 percent of tourists revisited the country.
Dr Nzuki also called upon media houses in the country to give the good image of the country before and after tourists visiting the country. Besides various proposals they gave in the meeting, journalists advised that a meeting of stakeholders of the tourism industry should be convened, under the Editors Forum, so as to freely discuss the challenges facing the sector.