Tanzania's tourism earnings rebound beyond pre-pandemic

Tourism has made a swift recovery from the devastating effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • The amount ($2.7 billion) could be the highest revenue ever generated by the economy from tourism even in the pre-pandemic era

Arusha. Exactly one year ago, Tanzania’s tourism industry, which had been severely battered by Covid-19, got a rare boost.

The Royal Tour film was launched in the United States by President Samia Suluhu Hassan in an effort to woo more visitors and get the key economic sector moving.

It was not the timing of the event that mattered most. The travel restrictions had started being eased globally.

It was the location of the event which was key. The US has been the leading source market for tourists coming to Tanzania for decades.

One year on, there is every sign that the leading foreign exchange generating sector is on a fast rebound.

Travel receipts have almost doubled to $2.7 billion during the year ending February, 2023, according to the Bank of Tanzania (BoT).

This was attributed to the increase in tourist arrivals “as the tourism sector finally makes a full recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic period”.

The amount ($2.7 billion) could be the highest revenue ever generated by the economy from tourism even in the pre-pandemic era.

In 2019, for instance, tourism earnings were estimated to be about $2.5 billion from about 1.5 million visitors.

BoT’s Monthly Economic Review for March, 2023 shows that the country received 1.5 million visitors during the year ending February, 2023.

This was more than the 959,329 that were registered during the preceding year and above the pre-pandemic level of 1.5 million in 2019.

“This reflects continued recovery of the tourism sector,” the central bank said, noting that increased tourism earnings were in tandem with general increase in export revenues.

In a nutshell, Tanzania’s exports of goods and services increased to $12.383 billion in the year ending February 2023.

It rose from $10.2 billion in the corresponding period in 2022, driven mostly by non-traditional exports (minerals and manufactured goods) and services receipts, mainly tourism.

Tourism sector stakeholders in Arusha acknowledged the role played by the documentary for the fast recovery of the sector through wooing visitors to the country.

“Of course, we had seen more visitors and many inquiries were received. There are many,” said Mr Aafeez Jivraj, the director of Tanzania Private Select Safaris.

He added in an interview with The Citizen yesterday, “There is a flow of tourists after the premiering of the film but the numbers are not so big.”

Mr Jivraj, one of the oldest hands in tour operations, called for increased marketing of the country’s attractions in order to sustain the numbers.

“There have always been some gaps in tourism marketing in Tanzania. Yet it is very crucial,” he stressed, calling for full involvement of the private sector.

He challenged the national tourism agencies to recruit highly skilled personnel to undertake marketing of the country’s attractions to the world.

These are the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB), Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa), the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) and Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (Tawa).

Mr Moinga Lesasi, a tourism officer with TTB office in Arusha, acknowledged that “there is a good flow of tourists to the country”.

He outlined new strategies underway to promote the country’s attractions so as to woo more visitors from leading tourism source markets.

These include bringing in leading travel agents to the country to sample the leading sites such as Serengeti and Ngorongoro.

Only recently, the board hosted travel agents from Canada, Belgium, France and Spain and that more groups of travel agents were on the way.

Mr Lesasi added that Tanzania would continue to participate in more international tourism fairs abroad as part of the promotion strategy.

Among the 13 of such fairs that Tanzania participated in regularly are ITB Berlin, considered the world’s top, WTM in London and Indaba in Durban, South Africa, seen as Africa’s largest.

Members of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (Tato) contacted maintained that marketing remains the best strategy to sustain the sector.

The quick rebound of tourism is one of the success stories of President Hassan who took the country’s leadership in March 2021 when the sector was on a decline. Within a year she featured in the Tanzania Royal Tour documentary, the first time in the country’s history where the Head of State played such a role in a film.

For her, it was part of efforts to revive the tourism industry that was greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The initial launch was done in New York on April 18, 2022 and filming in Los Angeles on April 21, 2022 and locally in Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar at the end of April.

The documentary has had a ripple effect in the tourism sector which until then earned the economy over $2 billion per annum.

The documentary was produced by award-winning American travel journalist, Mr Peter Greenberg with President Hassan staging as his tour guide.