(eTN) – A regular source from Dar es Salaam has taken issue with the apparent plans of the government of Zanzibar to amend the Tourism Act of 2009 after hard-line legislators suggested “moral decay brought by tourists” needed to be dealt with. Only last year did a minister in the government of the Zanzibar stir huge controversy when he demanded that anyone seen or found eating during day time during the month of Ramadan should be prosecuted, with a thinly concealed reference to tourist resorts and restaurants serving breakfast and lunch, when the Muslim faithful observes daytime fasting. This off the cuff remark was quickly suppressed, though, to avoid damage to the tourism sector, crucially important to the “Spice Island” economy and was played down by tourism stakeholders at the time as an overzealous if misspoken remark, swiftly making it known that foreign visitors were not subject to these restrictions.
This latest attempt to introduce a “moral high ground” is also thought to originate from the same school of thought as became evident through that minister’s remarks and has raised concern as to what exactly the proposed amendments entail. While mention was made of the planned introduction of “District Tourism Committees,” there is fear that those bodies will be “stuffed” with individuals then embarking on legal witch hunts under the pretext of protecting their children from, as has been mentioned in the local media, “moral decay, including our children copying indecent ways of dressing” – a phrase regularly used even in places as far as the Maldives of late, in reference to female tourists wearing bikinis.
Said the source from Dar on strictest condition of anonymity: “Last year, people would not believe when you wrote that article, but it was, of course, true. But the possible damage to tourism was too great, so he was told to shut up in public and not wreck the flow of visitors. Now, similar things are brought up again. I compare it with some articles you wrote about Maldives and how Seychelles and Mauritius would prosper if tourism there goes down because of fundamentalism. Now in Zanzibar, they even cried when we signed [an] MOU with Seychelles for dual joint holiday promotion. They claimed we are out to deny them tourists.
“For two years we have sent delegations to the carnival in Seychelles and benefitted from it. We want tourism for our safari parks and our beaches including Zanzibar. Radical ideas and motives have no place in our considerations.
“I am Muslim myself and we need to be tolerant. We should not ever give [the] impression that we are anti-foreign or anti-tourism. We are not. We just have to be careful that zealots are not put in [a] position to cause problems in beach resorts by trying to arrest tourists with small bathing suits.”
Will controversy or common sense carry the day? Let’s hope for the latter, as cooler minds in Zanzibar have always prevailed over a minority of a few who have their own agenda and not the best interest of the islands at heart.