Friday, 25 November 2016

TANZANIA: Tourism Needs To Evolve In Order For Tanzania To Benefit Better

Economists predict that tourism will remain a top foreign exchange earner for Tanzania in the foreseeable future, holding significant sustainable employment opportunities. However, to fully capitalise on tourism's potential to accelerate Tanzania's economic development and reduce donor dependence, the sector needs to evolve.

To claim a larger slice of the global tourism cake, government, industry bodies and private investors must collaborate to diversify tourism offerings. Endowed with abundant natural assets and diverse, rich cultures, Tanzania can advertise more than just wildlife, and tourism policies should reflect this.

Tanzania's coastline, distinct regions and landscapes suitable for numerous outdoor and sightseeing activities are underutilised. Tourism should embrace Tanzania's unique cultural multiplicity, its laid-back Swahili friendliness and its educated youngsters - potential entrepreneurs, if given affordable loans and guidance while establishing leisure industry businesses.

As Ebola anxieties fade, the time is right for increased publicity to promote regional areas, enticing visitors to explore Tanzania beyond the typical Safari plus Zanzibar trip and introduce the world to spectacular places like Mwanza, a rare gem. Who would not love "Rock City"? Wider marketing is desirable to balance negative media coverage of insufficiencies - inviting tourists to experience Tanzania's unique regions and preserve its image of a peace-loving, respectful, welcoming nation.

Tourism products not yet provided by large operators could sustain a significant number of entrepreneurs and employees in small businesses. Widening the scope of activities offered would encourage travellers to visit more destinations, stay longer and return to Tanzania more often.

Europeans based in Tanzania have traditionally spearheaded tourism. Their initiative, capital and overseas contacts have benefited Tanzania's economy and developed the Safari sector. However, through foreign operators' economic power, tourism reflects and reinforces Tanzania's dependency on developed and neighbouring nations. Kenya remains many visitors' gateway to Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Kilimanjaro, resulting in tourism dollars bypassing Tanzania.

Therefore, alternative activities to safaris are required to facilitate local start-ups, especially in cultural tourism outside luxury accommodation, globally one of the fastest growing segments. Many visitors are curious about Tanzania's tribal diversity, fascinated by traditional customs, foods and folk arts. Small-scale diversification exists here, but potential operators lack the required capital. Local entrepreneurs need technical and financial support to realise tourism potential. Reluctant lenders should note that money earned by small domestic ventures trickles down through the local economy to benefit many.

The purchasing power of diaspora tourists is also worth targeting. Middle-income visitors of Tanzanian origin are ready to spend in their ancestors' regions, if offered the right goods and services. The diaspora can also help fund, thus increase domestic ownership and management of, tourism ventures - given the right investment climate.

Such rural tourism diversification also encourages adventure travellers who prefer Tanzania's raw, authentic beauty to overdeveloped cities. The rolling hills of the Kagera Region and the Lake Victoria ferries please travellers who shun the wastefulness of 5-star luxury and embrace the simplicity of natural environments, where diversification in ecotourism helps preserve nature and historically and archaeologically significant sites. Affluent domestic tourists are also prepared to pay for new leisure experiences across the country, in turn creating jobs in communities lacking the economic growth of urban areas.

Tanzania's coastal climate is ideal for snorkelling, diving, kitesurfing and recreational fishing - activities rarely offered outside the tourism hubs. Tanzanian citizens' artistic skills are also marketable assets.

Ingenious minds already have many ideas for hikers, mountain bike riders, families, festival fans and music tourists. Young Tanzanians' visions include sports tourism and health and wellness tours. What they lack is support and access to capital.

Diversified, sustainable tourism creates skilled and unskilled employment. However, its potential can only be realized when the public and private sector cooperate, when plans and policies support Tanzanians in establishing themselves in diversified tourism.