by Paul Harrison
Rising hope for the tourism sector as Tanzania receives COVID-19 vaccines
In July 2021, mainland Tanzania received its first consignment of over one million doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines from the United States as part of the COVAX arrangement. Unlike her predecessor, Tanzania’s President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, has received a COVID19 vaccine in public, kicking off a nationwide inoculation campaign in the fight against the disease, with Zanzibari citizens receiving the Russian Sputnik vaccination amongst others. A significant step toward protecting Tanzanian citizens, the vaccination programme also represents a major confidence builder to tourists who are currently visiting the country and indeed those who are planning to visit in the future. The greater the rollout, the more likely that Tanzania will be removed from amber and red lists of EU countries, the UK and the USA.
Tanzania’s tourism sector is gradually recovering from the effects of the pandemic. Signs of growth are emerging in many parts of the country as hotel visits, game viewing and other tourist activities are starting to pick up. Traditionally, Tanzania has received the bulk of tourist arrivals from the USA, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Canada, Australia, Ireland and the Netherlands, but recently Russia is emerging as a new market, amongst others. Notably, Tanzania was expected to receive over 650 tourists from Israel during August 2021, according to the Citizen.
Selous ecosystem seems set to maintain UNESCO World Heritage status
Over the last five years, the Selous Game Reserve (now split between Nyerere national park and the reserve) was under increasing threat of being delisted as a UNESCO world heritage site. The threat of removal came from the decision made under the previous administration to construct a hydropower dam on the Rufiji river, which also led to substantial logging to clear the site.
However, due to an on-going dialogue with UNESCO and conservation efforts within the Selous ecosystem, Tanzania has been allowed, in principle, to maintain the status of the Selous as a UNESCO world heritage site, subject to proof of conservation efforts.
According to The Citizen, during the extended 44th session of the World Heritage Committee meeting, held online from Fuzhou, China from 16-31 July 2021, Tanzania has been directed to address the concerns raised and report by December 1st 2021. This is a promising indication that the Selous ecosystem may maintain its current label as a prestigious World Heritage site and continue to benefit from tourism opportunities there. This assumes Tanzania can continue to protect cultural and environmental treasures of the Selous as well as mitigating issues of degradation around the dam and to tackle human wildlife conflict in the wider landscape.
In Zanzibar, new investment is sought into high-end tourism
According to The East African, in late August the Zanzibar government, through the Zanzibar Investment Promotion Authority (ZIPA), issued an invitation to investors to bid for high-end tourism investments in key small islands. This is intended to boost revenues, part of the wider blue economy drive. Would be-investors were given until 16th September 2021 to submit proposals. Several small islands were offered for premium environmentally and culturally sensitive development projects, including Changuu, Bawe, Pamunda and Kwale islands off Unguja and Njao, Misali and Matumbini islands off Pemba.
In the same period, the BBC reported plans by the government of Zanzibar to build sub-Saharan Africa’s highest skyscraper, with a linked marina development, at a cost of likely upwards of £950 million, assuming investment can be found.
Generally, mainstream tourism numbers have been rising steadily in Zanzibar over the northern hemisphere summer months, though yet to reach pre-pandemic levels. A flood of Russian tourists earlier in the year now appears to have subsided though the trends suggest a shift towards countries like Russia away from traditional beach tourism markets, though that trend may settle back in time. Italian tourists, typically the mainstay of the Zanzibari beach tourism industry, have yet to return in any significant numbers.