Tanzania tourism almost in full recovery


  • The sector’s players say the country has been able to recover the bulk of its receipts because tourists only postponed their 2020 trips instead of cancelling them

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s tourism has almost recovered from the Covid-19 doldrums, thanks to last year’s decision by major economies to end their citizens’ travel restrictions and other initiatives by the government tourism stakeholders.

The Bank of Tanzania (BoT)’s latest figures put the amount that the country earned from tourism receipts at almost the same level as the one that was attained before the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Tanzania earned $2.526 billion from tourism receipts in 2019.

During that year, a total of 1,527,230 tourists visited Tanzania, the BoT figures show.

However, with travel restrictions towards the end of 2019 when the pandemic started and throughout the year 2020, travel receipts to Tanzania and the number of tourists who visited the country plunged to $1 billion and 616,490 respectively.

But with the end of restrictions and some internal initiatives, the latest BoT figures put the amount in travel receipts attained in 2022 at $2.56 billion.

This symbolizes that the amount attained in travel receipts was 1.4 percent more than what was registered prior to the pandemic.

Similarly, the number of tourists who visited the country reached 1,454,920. This was only shy of 2019 numbers by a measly 4.7 percent.

“The level of tourist arrivals is approaching the pre-pandemic level of 1,527,230 in 2019, reflecting recovery of the tourism sector,” the BoT says in its Monthly Economic Review for January, 2023 which covers the entire 2022 calendar year.

The hospitality sector is key to generating foreign exchange earnings for Tanzania, contributing about 53.6 percent of the total services receipts for the country which amounted to $4.77 billion in 2022. The sector’s players say the country has been able to recover the bulk of its receipts because tourists decided to postpone their 2020 trips instead of cancelling them.

“After the pandemic was declared, we asked customers not to cancel but instead postpone to the next year all the bookings that did not mature in 2020. Thus, a number of the bookings were either fulfilled in 2021 and many were pushed further to 2022, which is why we saw a significant surge of arrival numbers and revenue,” said the chief executive officer for the Hotel Association of Tanzania (HAT), Mr Kennedy Edward.

The sector and subs in the hospitality industry suffered first-hand the effects of Covid-19, and the track of recovery got disrupted by the eruption of political tensions in Europe coupled with economic recession fears. Mr Edward said the government has been a key partner in the resuscitation of Tanzania’s tourism sector, resulting in some of the notable outcomes that people see in the numbers.

“Tourism promotion was one of the key initiatives on the government’s agenda, with a very active participation of state and the government in its programmes. There have also been well orchestrated public-private partnerships in the tourism promotion drives during the past two years,” he said.

According to him, The Royal Tour documentary involves President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

Depicting the President as a tour guide, The Royal Tour markets Tanzania as the best tourist destination in the world where visitors can enjoy mixed feelings such as climbing, wildlife safari, cultural exploration, various adventurous activities, and chilling on idyllic sandy beaches of the Indian Ocean.

Looking forward, he said, the prospects look promising.

“We hold good positive prospects in 2023. If the trend keeps going at the current rate, we can call it a full recovery at least by the end of this year,” said Mr Edward.

University of Dar es Salaam economics professor Humphrey Moshi noted that the recovery is inevitable because of the end of travel restrictions in most countries starting 2021.

“So, the task now is to devise how we are going to maintain this upward trend,” he said.

“The two crises (war and pandemic) have shown us that the world is interconnected and interdependent. So, as we go forward, we need policies and measures that are resilient to predict and mitigate future crises,” said Prof Moshi.

He asserted that Tanzania needs to continue to promote multilateralism and international integration to complement its policies to boost the hospitality industry.

Global trends

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), different regions of the world experienced stronger recovery in 2022 and it’s expected that by the end of this year, 2023 global tourism might return to its pre-pandemic glory.

According to the UNWTO, international tourist arrivals could reach 80 percent or 95 percent of pre-pandemic levels this year, depending on the extent of the economic slowdown.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “A new year brings more reason for optimism for global tourism. UNWTO anticipates a strong year for the sector even in the face of diverse challenges including the economic situation and continued geopolitical uncertainty,” Mr Pololikashvili added, “Economic factors may influence how people travel in 2023 and UNWTO expects demand for domestic and regional travel to remain strong and help drive the sector’s wider recovery.”