Clear and present danger to tourism operations

Another battle is brewing between hoteliers and lower arms of government, this time triggered by the insistence of the Ngorongoro District Council that lodges inside and outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Authority area should pay them a combined levy worth over US$1 million.

The Tanzanian hotel association body, HAT, short for Hotel Association of Tanzania, has made it patently clear that since the Finance Act of 2012, hotels are exempted from paying service levies to districts demanding money from them.

An intransigent Ngorongoro District Council, however, has threatened to take hotels unwilling to meet their extortionate demands to court and even lock their premises, all happening now ahead of the high season and of two crucial local Tanzanian tourism trade fairs, the Karibu Travel and Tourism Fair in Arusha and the KILIFair held a week later in Moshi.

“Should these uneducated and ill-informed administrators try to make good of their threats, they could spoil the entire season for the tourism sector. If the Finance Act of 2012 exempted hotels and lodges from paying such service levies, they should accept it and find other mechanisms to finance their spending habits. It reminds us when TANAPA held safari operators and clients hostage at their gates about two years ago trying to extort money which the lodges claimed was not due, taking it out on the entire industry. That caused us all huge damage in loss of reputation, as an industry and as a country. Those responsible at TANAPA at the time made us look like a banana republic. Such malfeasance must be stopped once and for all, and these little village chiefs better get some education and learn civil manners and behavior,” ranted a regular source from Arusha when asked to comment on the development.

HAT will no doubt take the matter back to court to seek protection for their members, maybe via a prohibition order against this and any other councils which may wish to follow suit while higher courts with greater competence than a mere magistrate’s court are expected to rule differently when all facts are presented to them.