by James L.Laizer

Tanzania ranked among best tourist destinations in Africa
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation ranks Tanzania as Africa’s second top tourism performer after Ethiopia, citing a substantial increase in visitors and positive industry developments. According to Dr. Hassan Abbas, Tanzania’s Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the tourist sector was negatively impacted by COVID-19, but new investments and the government efforts, including in producing the ‘Royal Tour’ documentary have helped to improve performance. The number of tourists increased from 250,000 in the first quarter of 2022 to more than 400,000 in the same period this year.

“This is a very good step in the tourism sector because we have come out of Covid-19 and soon we will release fresh data on the number of tourists for the half-year. We continue to thank Tanzanians for continuing to invest in the tourism sector, many good things are coming,” said Dr Abbas when briefing on the outcome of Africa tourism conference held August, 2023 in Mauritius. He also said that Tanzania has been made a member of the council responsible for developing global tourism strategies and plans as well as the UNWTO’s vice-chairman.

Speaking at the Mauritius event, director of tourism Dr Thereza Mugobi indicated that Tanzania has acquired lessons that may assist in revolutionizing the tourism industry. These concerns include expanding private sector participation and making additional investments in tourism infrastructure: “Mauritius has made serious development in beach tourism, and it also works with the private sector very closely. The private sector always conducts tourism research and shares recommendations with the government. In Tanzania, we also work with the private sector, but we need to invest more” said Dr Mugobi. She also suggested that hospitality standards are important to make tourists come back. During the Mauritius event, Dr Abbas announced a renewed six-member board of the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB), containing members from both private and public sectors, with Ambassador Ramadhan Dau appointed chairperson, succeeding Judge Thomas Mihayo who retired at the close of his tenure.

Anti-poaching efforts paying off in Tanzania as wildlife population increases.
Tanzania has announced a steady rebound in its elephants and black rhinos’ populations as anti-poaching campaigns and ongoing enforcement and intelligence work continue to keep poaching efforts down. The number of black rhinos, an endangered species, has increased from 163 in 2019 to 238 in 2022, surpassing the target of having 205 rhinos by the end of 2023, the then Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mohamed Mchengerwa, said in June 2023. Presenting the tourism ministry’s budget in Parliament, Mr Mchengerwa said the elephant population also increased from 43,330 in 2014 to c.60,000 in 2022. As a result, Tanzania currently boasts Africa’s third-highest elephant population.

“Wildlife security reports indicate that no elephant deaths have resulted from poaching between July 2022 and April 2023,” said Mr Mchengerwa. He added that anti-poaching campaigns were boosted by efforts to control illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, and encroachment in protected areas. This is a strong indication that poaching has been dropping in Tanzania but not a time for complacency either. According to the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF), black rhinos and elephants remain critically endangered species because of the demand for their horns and tusks in the illegal international market. WWF says poaching for the illegal trade is the greatest and deadliest threat to these species, as the horns and tusks are traded to be used for traditional medicine and increasingly as a status symbol to display success and wealth. Ongoing efforts will be required. Mr. Mchengerwa also stated that conservation efforts remain evident as the country accommodates the largest populations of lions and giraffes at 14,912 and 24,000, respectively. “12,058 poaching suspects have been apprehended, and the ministry has conducted special intelligence operations enabling the prevention of poaching and illegal harvesting of forest resources,” he said. This suggests that the use of a holistic approaches such as anti-poaching operations, intelligence, local community buy-in and better coordination among state agencies has helped enforce a legal framework that supports conservation and sustainable management of wildlife and protected areas in Tanzania.

Zanzibar announced an increase in its room tax effective from 1st July 2023.
The Zanzibar Revenue Authority (ZRA) has embarked on collecting new infrastructure levy from hotels, that comes into operation effective from July 1st, 2023. The tax changes will cover both five-star hotels and guest houses that shall charge from US$ 1 to US$ 5 or its equivalent in Tanzania Shillings per guest per night. According to the ZRA’s public notice, the tax is payable by a guest staying in any Isles hotel or guest house and the management shall be responsible for its collection.

Hoteliers and tourism stakeholders in Zanzibar have said the introduction of the levy for every hotel room occupied per night is likely to negatively affect the sector. However, the government has upheld that the levy will have no meaningful impact on the private sector. According to Ms. Saada Muya Salum, Zanzibar’s finance minister, the new levies would be implemented immediately with effect from 1st July 2023. “Hoteliers will have to see how to implement this, and I don’t think it is going to affect their businesses to that extent. What we are doing is creating a conducive business atmosphere; for example, regarding the issue of electricity, we have removed VAT on solar panels,” Ms Mkuya said.

The hotel stakeholder groups responded that having additional levies damages the competitive edge that Zanzibar has against other island nations in the Indian Ocean. “Hotels are already charging 15 percent VAT already, now add $5 dollars; this is keenly felt by consumers who might be forced to look elsewhere,” said one hotelier in Stone Town who preferred anonymity. The hotelier added that despite a rebound in the sector with handsome numbers of arrivals, this is an industry that was ravaged by the pandemic and many of the businesses are still in the recovery period. The chairperson of the Zanzibar Association for Tourism Investors (Zati), Rahim Bhaloo, said the new development has taken the industry stakeholders by surprise, adding that there was a need for prior engagement given the dynamics and nature of business. However, the chairperson of the Zanzibar National Chamber of Commerce, Ali Amour, said infrastructure tax changes needed to be implemented in accordance with the laws, indicating. That such levies support increases into tourism infrastructure such as roads.

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