At the height of the pandemic, the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) through the UNDP’s backing in collaboration with the Government, undertook a number of response measures, yielding tremendous impact in terms of commanding a thick tourists traffic and new bookings thus painting a bright future for the industry.
Despite being brutally assaulted by the pandemic, the latest official statistics from the Statehouse show the tourism industry recorded a nearly 126 percent growth in terms of the number of visitors in 2021 compared to 2020.
In her message to bid farewell to 2021 and welcome the New Year 2022, Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan said that 1.4 million tourists visited the natural resources-rich nation in 2021 amidst the Covid-19 pandemic; compared to 620,867 holidaymakers in 2020.
“This implies that in 2021, there was an increase of 779,133 tourists who visited Tanzania,” President Suluhu said in her address televised live by the state-run Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation, adding: “Our expectations are that the tourism industry will continue to flourish in 2022 and beyond,”
“The data speaks volumes on the positive impact of UNDP’s backed TATO and the Government initiatives have had in the tourism industry,” said TATO CEO, Mr. Sirili Akko, adding: “I believe this is just the beginning of our journey in building back better a tourism industry that is inclusive, resilient, and prosperous”.
Mr. Akko expressed his profound gratitude to UNDP, saying their support came at the darkest moment in the tourism industry’s recent history compounded by the ripple effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Key among the initiatives TATO undertook under the UNDP support in 2021 was to organize the Travel Agents FAM trip to Tanzania in September 2021 to explore the northern tourism circuit in its strategy to give them a glimpse of the endowed tourist’s allures.
TATO also developed basic health infrastructure in key tourism spots, which entailed having, among other things, four ambulances on the ground, and agreement with some hospitals to use the facilities for tourists’ services in case of any contingency, and linkage with flying doctors’ services in its bid to restore tourist’s confidence.
To be precise, TATO under the UNDP auspices deployed a state-of-the-art fleet of ambulances to tourism hotbed areas, namely Serengeti and Kilimanjaro national parks, Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem, and Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Through the UNDP funds, TATO also purchased the much-needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect tourists and those who serve them against the COVID-19 disease.
TATO in collaboration with the government has pioneered the rollout of Seronera, Kogatende, and Ndutu Coronavirus specimen collection centers in central, northern, and eastern-south Serengeti, respectively, making Covid-19 testing easy and convenient for tourists.
TATO also was the first organization to set up a vaccination center at its premises for its frontline workers to receive the jabs, thus easing a plight of queuing at public hospitals.
The organization had partnered with a US-based Cornersun Destination Marketing Company to promote Tanzania across Northern America in its bid to revive the tourism industry, spur other businesses, recover thousands of lost jobs and generate revenue for the economy.
The TATO efforts at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when the entire world came to a standstill were like a wastage of time and other resources to most biblical doubting Thomases.
But the efforts apparently augured well for the international travelers, if the African Travel and Tourism Association’s (ATTA) statement is anything to go by.
“Our members and their clients traveling to Tanzania have received well the Covid-19 testing centers in Serengeti,” writes the ATTA CEO, Mr. Chris Mears, to his TATO counterpart, Mr. Sirili Akko.
ATTA is a member-driven trade association that promotes tourism to Africa from all corners of the world. Recognized as the voice of African tourism, ATTA serves and supports businesses in Africa, representing buyers and suppliers of tourism products across 21 African countries.
Mr Mears said the Serengeti testing center impressed his members and tourists, as it allowed travelers to maximize their time in the parks and prevented them from using their long-programmed safari days for Covid-19 tests.
Back home, the key tour operators confirmed that the TATO initiatives have real started invigorating fresh bookings.
“We’ve been registering a surge of new bookings with our prospective tourists citing the Covid-19 specimen collection center at Serengeti and the rollout of vaccination, among others, as the factors behind their interest in booking safaris,” said the Nature Responsible Safaris Managing Director, Ms. Fransica Masika, explaining:
“We’re so grateful, indeed, to the painstaking efforts TATO spearheads along with the government through the UNDP financial support. We appreciate their urgent measures for supporting the industry’s recovery in the face of the Covid-19 crisis.”
In the darkest moment where the impact of Covid-19 was reigning, manifested by massive international border closures, aircraft parking, laying off staff, and paralysis of the economic activities among other control measures each country was taking, Tanzania was not exempt.
Owing to the inbound nature of the tourism business the industry was the most hard-hit as the outbreak of the brutal Coronavirus led to a sharp fall in tourist arrivals in Tanzania from slightly over 1.5 million tourists in 2019 to 620,867 in 2020.
The fall in arrivals triggered an even more devastating drop in revenue collections to $1.7 billion in 2020, down from an all-time record of $2.6 billion in 2019.
With an 81 percent drop in tourism due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses collapsed resulting in significant revenue loss, a loss of three-quarters of jobs in the industry, be they tour operators, hotels, tour guides, transporters, food suppliers, and traders.
This severely affected the livelihoods of many, especially the micro, small and medium enterprises, unprotected workers, and informal businesses that comprise mostly youth and women.
Tanzania is one of the key tourism destinations attracting nearly 1.5 million tourists who leave behind $2.6 billion annually, thanks to its amazing wilderness, incredible natural landscapes, friendly people coupled with safety and security element.
As the tourism sector transitions gradually into recovery mode with the rest of the world, the latest World Bank report urges authorities to look toward its future resilience by addressing long-running challenges that could help position Tanzania on a higher and more inclusive growth trajectory.
Areas of focus include destination planning and management, product and market diversification, more inclusive local value chains, an improved business and investment climate, and new business models for investment that are built on partnership and shared value creation.
Tourism offers Tanzania the long-term potential to create good jobs, generate foreign exchange earnings, provide revenue to support the conservation and maintenance of natural and cultural heritage, and expand the tax base to finance development expenditures and poverty-reduction efforts.
The latest World Bank Tanzania Economic Update, Transforming Tourism: Toward a Sustainable, Resilient, and Inclusive Sector highlights tourism as central to the country’s economy, livelihoods, and poverty reduction, particularly for women, who make up 72 percent of all workers in the tourism sub-sector.