‘The meeting with our Minister was shambles,’ ranted a regular Arusha based contributor before adding ‘He got no grip on the industry, he does not understand tourism and his insistence earlier in the year that tourism must be subjected to VAT shows that he is against the industry he is supposed to represent in government. He is another in a long line of failures which shows government does not appreciate the sector at all. One of the few over the past years of substance was Kagesheki but most others were just postering peacocks’ – leaving out some of the more unprintable comments made on the subject.
Prof. Maghembe met industry representatives over government demands of a $2,000 licence fee, irrespective of the size of the company in question, and for some time banned the entrance of tour vehicles into the parks, unless the drivers carried copies of the licences with them. This led to widespread protests from a large number of small safari operators, almost all owned by Tanzanians, who tried to carve out a niche in the market for themselves by going independent.
Participants in the meeting then reported that the minister had to make a humiliating climbdown and suspend the measure, allowing tour vehicles into the parks for the time being, while a more moderate and measured solution was sought.
At the same meeting, the government also came under fire for not doing enough to promote and market the country, again leading to some feeble excuses by the minister, who failed once more to embrace the private sector’s challenges and problems and – like with his stand on VAT – only served to further estrange himself from the sector.
The minister reportedly left red-faced after a barrage of discontent by meeting participants with TATO (Tanzania Association of Tour Operators) representatives mincing no words how detrimental the government’s measures were for the entire industry.
Said another regular source in a volunteered statement, given on condition of anonymity for obvious reasons – considering the current crackdown on any form of dissent: ‘The sooner they recognize that good working relations between government and private sector is absolutely essential, the better. This minister has failed us, full stop. We feel like we are all treated like tax evaders and cheats until proven innocent and that is not climate under which the sector can prosper. Maghembe should be the first to make way for a better suited person because tourism deserves the best, not a recycled politician who has done nothing else but offend us’.
Harsh words no doubt, but by the looks of it quite understandable.