(eTN) – In a move, termed by sections of the tourism fraternity as “suicidal” TANAPA has raised a range of fees to enter the country’s national parks, effective from July 2013.
While appreciating the one year notice given to build the risen fees and charges into their pricing for safaris and services for next year, some stakeholders expressed hardly concealed fury over the level of increases ranging between 100 and 400 percent.
“We are not amused. TANAPA has completely ignored the current market trends and the difficulties selling Tanzania’s tourism products. We are struggling abroad with our reputation. Conservation NGOs are branding the country as anti-conservation because of the ambiguous stand on the highway across the Serengeti. And true enough, with the track record of our government misleading us, there is no guarantee that in say 5 or 10 years they would not tarmac that section, then claiming reasons beyond their control.
“There is the Selous issue, the power plant at Stiegler’s Gorge, the carving out of 200 square kilometers [of] critical boundary area to mine for toxic uranium and telling us all is ok and there is no poison and no danger. It is about the Coelacanth marine park in Mwambani, which is set to be destroyed when they build a new deep-sea port. It is about the routing of the planned railway to Musoma, which would by shortest way run across the Serengeti, too, and again, we have no firm undertakings from government. There is the entire issue of poaching and illegal logging and smuggling of ivory and trophies through our ports. Combined with the sudden rise in airport fees by US$10 and the increase in immigration permit fees, also with immediate effect and no notice at all, this is all a setback for the sector.
“The riots in Zanzibar, as much as government wants us to forget those, overseas markets are still asking and are still worried about tourists being targeted next by extremists. The multiple marine accidents also worry people, even foreign tourists some of which seem to have drowned last time. We are being promised action, nothing happens, and then there is much lamenting when the next ferry goes down.
“Air Tanzania coming back, going away again, now they have an aircraft and now they don’t and cancel[ing] flights on which tourists have been booked, all these many issues have damaged our reputation, and the worst was the murder in a Serengeti camp last month of the tourist and the manager. And now TANAPA does that? Are they for real? At least they gave a year[‘s] notice and not as before just decide to raise fees overnight,” commented a regular source from Arusha in audible anger.
Other sources from both Arusha and Dar es Salaam, and also Zanzibar, where many tourist visitors go after a safari on the mainland, have equally expressed their exasperation over the extensive hike in charges, saying such increases should take into account general market trends and the need to be attractively priced in comparison with key competitors in the East African region and in Southern Africa, where – going by the comments made – tourists seem to be getting better value for money.
An official source close to TANAPA, however, on condition of total anonymity, rejected the claims and insisted that after several years of keeping entrance fees at the same level there had to be an increase to cater to the high cost of maintaining the parks and improving on infrastructure. The source also pointed to Rwanda where the charges for gorilla-tracking permits have been raised from US$500 per person to US$750 per person, per tracking, although Uganda and Congo DR – where tracking presently is strictly not advisable due to the raging conflict which has also spread into the Virunga National Park – have kept their charges at the US$500 level.
Killing the goose which lays the golden eggs comes to mind, as fees and charges, including a planned VAT charge in Kenya on tourism services, is, according to stakeholders, creating huge problems on being competitive with other beach and safari destinations, while at the same time not investing enough back in the sector in terms of marketing and in particular keeping the roads to the various parks in good shape.