The World Travel Fair, held in London from December 1st to 6th 1987, has become a dynamic force for the development of international tourism and no country which wants visitors can afford to neglect it. It was therefore a sign of positive progress to see a Tanzanian stand at the Fair. Previously, the other countries of Eastern and Southern Africa have had it all their own way. But, at last, Tanzania joined them, with a stand on the upper floor at Olympia, very near the stands of Zimbabwe, Botswana and Kenya.
The Manager of the Tanzanian exhibition was Mr. Amant Macha, the Director of Marketing of the Tanzania Tourist Corporation and I spoke to him about the principal aims of Tanzania’s tourist effort. First of all, he made it perfectly clear that Tanzania had neglected tourism for far too long and had now set itself very definite targets for the years ahead. Although tourist development was still in its infancy, Mr. Macha thought it possible that the number of tourists could increase to over 200,000 by the early 1990’s.
The second priority for Tanzanian tourism is obviously the construction of far more hotels and motels, catering for a wide range of tastes and income brackets. In the short and medium term Mr. Macha thought that the country must aim at what is usually called the upper middle class of the market. Visiting Tanzania for a fortnight or three weeks and viewing the safari parks is not going to be cheap and any thought of mass tourism packages 1s not being considered at present. Mr. Macha’s final theme was that Tanzania needed to concentrate on two main areas, firstly, wildlife and secondly, Kilimanjaro.
Judged by these aims the Tanzanian stand had done moderately well. It had displayed well designed and photographed wall posters concentrating mainly on the game parks and mountains. There were also two British tour managers on hand to explain Special Interest holidays to visitors.
But there is clearly a great deal more to be done before tourism is launched on a wide scale. Several questions remained unanswered. How ‘international’ are the hotels already in existence? Do they offer a wide ranging cuisine? Can they give a distinguished and reliable service? Even more important, is there a good car-hire service and is there a decent network of roads and sufficient travel information for a visitor to take his family on their own tour through the country?
There was a great deal spoken by all the officials on the stand about the beauty of Tanzania’s wildlife. But what of the coast? The discerning visitor wants to see mountains, wildlife, beaches and, not least important, he wants to meet the people. Tanzania has to realise that other countries very near it have a huge head-start in the organisation of their tourist industries, and the competition is not only keen, but getting tougher all the time. Clearly, much good work has been done in the past year and the participation in this Travel Fair will have done much to strengthen the links which have just been forged with some of the world’s leading tour operators. But it is absolutely essential to open up the whole country to international visitors and to provide as free and friendly a holiday visit as possible if Tanzanian tourism is to thrive. State tours are really no substitute for freedom of choice.
But the potential is huge. Tanzania is arguably the most beautiful and varied country in the African continent and the coloured posters at the back of the stand took me back twenty-five years to my first visit to that truly enchanted land. Wild buck leapt from darkness to light and then back into the semi-shadows; rivers gleamed and flashed in the early morning sun; Makonde carvings displayed in abundance, spoke of a rich cultural heritage which no discerning visitor could ignore. And, overall, Mount Kilimanjaro shone radiant, with white snowy flanks. It seemed irresistible. One visitor to the stand summed it up exactly. “It all looks so marvellous and so new. I didn’t know until today that you could really visit Tanzania”. That, perhaps, is the strongest card that Tanzania can possibly play in the tourism game. Its new. The great novelty of going there and seeing something absolutely fresh is undoubtedly the best weapon in the armoury of the Tanzania Tourist Corporation. It will be interesting to see how skillfully it plays it in the years that lie ahead.
Noel K. Thomas