Racism rears ugly head on Tanzania tourism

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DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (eTN) – In an unprecedented and frustrating situation, Tanzania’s hospitality industry has been hit by racial discrimination scandals and poor working conditions towards loca

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DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (eTN) – In an unprecedented and frustrating situation, Tanzania’s hospitality industry has been hit by racial discrimination scandals and poor working conditions towards local staff.

Two recent reports are likely to tarnish the image of the flourishing tourism sector among the humanitarian and philanthropy travelers who are mostly looking at local Tanzanians as key stakeholders of the country’s tourism industry.

In the first incident, a local wildlife conservationist, Mr. David Maige, had complained to Tanzania’s tourism minister of being barred from entering a tourist hotel located on the rim of the Great Rift Valley in northern Tanzania, overlooking Lake Manyara National Park, which is famous in Africa for its rare tree-climbing lions.

The hotel, once owned by the Tanzanian government before getting into the hands of foreign investors, is said to have laid down entry restrictions to local Tanzanians, similar to the once devilish apartheid policy in South Africa which Tanzanians fought to the last end.

The conservationist, who had complained to Tanzanian Tourism Minister Shamsa Mwangunga of being denied entry and services in the hotel on racial basis, said locals visiting the hotel as domestic tourists were discriminated by the orders of the hotel management.

Maige said the hotel management denied him entry when he took his family there for a holiday. According to him, he was told that the hotel was a “no-go zone for natives, but the preserve of foreigners and members of the power elite.”

”We are not allowed to approach the facility, let alone getting in and being served,” Maige was quoted saying.

Responding to complaints aired before her, the minister said discrimination against locals was not only a dangerous move likely to derail her ministry’s efforts to promote domestic tourism, but it also contravenes the laws of the land.

The minister then issued a one-week ultimatum for the management to revoke the policy and to give her a feedback.

The incident is the second known racism case to be reported by the Tanzanian media. Past media reports said that former Tanzanian Tourism Minister Zakia Meghji once observed racial discrimination in a beach resort in Zanzibar, her birthplace. Best known for her great efforts to attract foreign investors in lucrative tourist sector, she solved the problem softly.

Apartheid style of discrimination towards locals has been reported in various tourist hotels, mostly those owned by foreign investors inside wildlife parks.

Tanzania had condemned and shunned down racism and tribalism to become the only African country where people of all races live and respect each other, the situation which had made this African destination a peaceful state conducive for tourism investments.

Under the same culture and a common Kiswahili language, Tanzania with a population of 36 million people, is a united country where people from one corner of the country move freely to another corner to settle or doing business with confidence and common understanding.

Meanwhile, the International Labor Organization (ILO), in its critical report, said that working conditions of staff employed in Tanzania’s tourist sector was “very pathetic.” ILO is claiming that more than 60 percent do not get their annual leave and over half of those employed in the hospitality industry work more than 50 hours a week.

The report also highlighted that nearly 20 percent of Tanzanian employees experience physical violence in their workplace, while some 17 percent complain about abuse and harassment.

The report was launched by the regional director of the ILO for Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Somalia at the beginning of a workshop in Dar es Salaam last week. It was designed to find ways and means to improve working conditions in this and other sectors.

Tanzanian Tourism Minister Zakia Meghji welcomed the findings and stated that government would look into the complaints raised and highlighted in the report, with the objective of improving the circumstances for workers in the hospitality industry.

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.