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Tanzania tour operators urge government: Accept green passport holders

Tanzania tour operators urge government: Accept green passport holders
Tanzania tour operators struggling

The Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) is struggling to convince the government to ease new COVID-19 restrictions to save its ambitious deal with Israel travel agents to bring thousands of high-end inbound tourists.

  1. Tanzania has elevated and enhanced prevailing preventive measures especially those with regard to international travel.
  2. Israel travel agents expect to bring nearly 2,000 holidaymakers in August and September 2021.
  3. Tanzania tour operators are demanding government to lift restrictions for green passport holders on the grounds that these tourists have been vaccinated.

Leading Israel Travel Agents, who plan to bring nearly 2,000 high-end inbound tourists to the northern Tanzania safari circuit in2 months from August 2021, have written a letter to TATO demanding to persuade the government to lift some restrictions for their tourists who are green passport holders on the grounds that their tourists are vaccinated and hence there is no need to impose extra measures for them.

Based on the global epidemiological situation and the emergence of new variants of viruses that cause COVID-19, Tanzania has elevated and enhanced prevailing preventive measures especially those with regard to international travel.

In updating the Travel Advisory No. 6 of May 3 to version No. 7, effective from May 4, 2021, the government directed that all travelers, whether foreigners or returning residents, entering into Tanzania will be subjected to enhanced screening for the COVID-19 infection including the rapid test.

TATO CEO Mr. Sirili Akko said that his association is in advanced conversation with the government on this matter to get a solution which he thinks will also open doors for other green passport holders from the rest of the world to visit the country.

“Cognizant of tourism business subdued by the pandemic, the expectations are that whoever is bringing the business will be received with the red carpet, and there is no reason for Israel travel agents to think of other destinations,” he noted.

The agents, who expect to bring nearly 2,000 holidaymakers in August and September 2021, demand vaccinated tourists from Israel be eligible to access hotels, restaurants, and attractions, without being subjected to test, Mr. Akko explained.

Mrs. Tali Yativ, CEO of a top travel agency specializing in premium tourism in Israel, the Spirit Extraordinary Travel, says she plans special 2 monthly Tel Aviv – Kilimanjaro International Airport charter flights with 56 high-end tourists each in August and September 2021, but only if the government will recognize their green passports.

“We are planning 2 flights in August and September 2021 exclusively for [the] northern Tanzania safari circuit and our clients will spend 8 days in the country, but we are worried about the local COVID-19 pandemic requirements,” Mrs. Yativ wrote to the TATO CEO.

She asked TATO to liaise with the government to allow Israel tourists fully vaccinated with green passports to enter and depart without being subjected to testing. 

For Terry Kessel, the Managing Director for Diesenhaus Travel Israel, who has been bringing tourists in the country for 20 years, he also sought with TATO to finalize the talks with government to allow them to bring hordes of tourists from Jerusalem.

“Our efforts to bring tourists in Tanzania have recently been frustrated, thanks to the new Tanzania COVID-19 testing regulations. Our clients are considering canceling their travel plans due to the process involved,” Mr. Kessel wrote to TATO.

“Without easing the local COVID-19 requirements, the ambitious project to bring hordes of Israel tourists will fail,” Mr. Kessel noted.

Official statistics from the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) show that tourists from Israel were only 3,000 in 2011. The number increased to 4,635 in 2012 and more than tripled to 15,000 visitors by 2016.

In a span of a few years, Israel has shot to the sixth position of the leading tourist source markets for Tanzania before the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The United States has been the leading source of about 1.5 million tourists visiting the country annually followed by the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and India.

TATO, under the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), is currently implementing its “Tourism Recovery Strategy” to help spur business, recover thousands of lost jobs, and generate revenue for the economy.

Representing over 300 tour operators, TATO is a leading lobbying agency for the tourism industry in Tanzania that earns roughly $2.05 billion per year for the economy, equivalent to 17 percent of the country’s GDP.