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African Tourism Board Country | Region News Tanzania Tourism

Kilimanjaro Cable Car may ruin $50M Trekking Industry

Kilimanjaro

International travel agents have raised a red flag against a planned $72 million cable car project on Mount Kilimanjaro, threatening to drop off the Africa’s highest summit on their top destinations of choice list.

This implies that 56,000 tourists who scale-up Mount Kilimanjaro and leave behind $50 million annually, will most likely to plunge and affect the revenue stream and livelihood of thousands local folks who solely depend on trekking industry to make their lives going.

U.S based travel agent, Mr. Wil Smith who has successfully been selling the Mount Kilimanjaro for two decades has vowed not only to stop promoting the awe-inspiring world’s freestanding summit, but also to advise trekking enthusiasts to eschew the destination. 

“If the proposed cable car is constructed, we will no longer promote Kilimanjaro as a natural and scenic destination, and we will advise travelers to avoid the area” Mr. Smith writes to his letter to the Tanzania’s government dated February 17, 2022.

Mr. Smith who is a director of the Deeper Africa outfitter says that a cable car on Mount Kilimanjaro will be an unnatural eyesore and a public nuisance. 

Kilimanjaro’s core values that attract thousands of hikers annually are its wild, scenic setting and the challenge of trekking to the summit, he writes to the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr. Damas Ndumbaro, adding:

“The construction of a high-capacity tourist conveyance will urbanize the mountain and disfigure the landscape. Kilimanjaro will lose its reputation as a grand and beautiful wonder, becoming instead a cheap and easy distraction of no great consequence”.

The travel agent further argues that it will also be a public health hazard because a cable car rapidly lifting unprepared tourists to extreme altitudes will cause illness, injury, and death. 

Agent from Nepal Mr. Mingmar Sherpa put it clear that his clients don’t prefer to trek in those mountains where there are rope ways as they want to trek and experience nature, enjoy the surrounding, interact with the local people, and so on.

“Our trekkers will not feel that pride and cheerfulness of getting to the top. Just imagine getting to the top of the Mount Kilimajaro or Everest by rope way or any other medium, what will be the value”, writes Mr. Sherpa who is the Managing director of Boss Adventure Treks & Expedition based at Kathmandu in Nepal.

“I had an opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in 2019 and I wish my children and the future generation would have the same experience rather than getting to the top by ropeway” his letter to Dr. Ndumbaru reads in part.

Thomas Zwahlen Managing Director Alpinschule who has been leading the trekker groups on Mount Kilimanjaro from Switzerland for three decades now pleaded with the Minister to stop the cable car project and preserve the unique mountain because it’s the best and most beautiful figurehead of Tanzania.

“For over 30 years, we have regularly led trekking groups from Switzerland to Kilimanjaro. We bring work to the local population and appreciate the natural beauty of the national park” the letter reads in part.

Meinrad Bittel, a Swiss mountain guide who has been climbing Kilimanjaro for 30 years said:  “When I heard this news that a cable car was being planned to climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Kilimanjaro is a symbol of Tanzania. This mountain belongs to the 7 Summits! So it cannot be that a person can climb this beautiful mountain with a cable car. Just imagine what would happen to the landscape”.

Karl Kobler the founder and Managing Director of Aconcagua Vision, Kobler & Partner in Switzerland and Himalaya Vision in Nepal who has been selling the Kilimanjaro for 35 years said that tourists choose Kilimanjaro as their destination because of it’s pristine landscape a unique free-standing mountain and a world heritage site.


“Kilimanjaro would lose its attractiveness for trekkers and mountaineers. It is nothing special anymore.Nowhere in the world has a cable car ever been built on one of the Seven Summits. It would be a big financial loss for the whole tourism industry and this could not be compensated with a cable car” he writes to the government.

Way back in 2019, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT) announced a plan that would see a cable car installed on Mount Kilimanjaro as part of its strategy to quadruple annual tourists’ number to the Africa’s highest mountain from 50,000 to 200,000 and reap more dollars.

As it happened, the AVAN Kilimanjaro Ltd, a company 100 percent owned by six foreign shareholders, has in mysterious circumstances, been picked to execute the project. 

Last week, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr. Damas Ndumbaro, said that he plans to meet with tour operators in Northern Tanzania’s tourist region of Kilimanjaro on March 8 for comprehensive deliberations and come up with the way forward.

Tour operators, mostly specialized in the lucrative mountain climbing safaris, have come up with fists, protesting the government’s decision to introduce the cable car trips on the mountain. 

In their meeting held in Arusha early last week, the tour operators opposed Tanzania government’s plan to introduce a cable car on Mount Kilimanjaro – an exercise they said would minimize tourism revenues accrued from the mountain climbers.

Dr. Ndumbaro said the government had planned to introduce the cable car on the mountain in order to allow disabled people and those with limited time for trekking the mountain on foot to use the cable car.

However, AVAN Kilimanjaro Ltd, a consortium behind the project says the ropeway will cater for tourists of all walks, leaving more questions than answers on the truth of the matter.

The Chairman of Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO), Mr. Wilbard Chambulo, said that introduction of the cable car on the mountain will affect the mountain’s fragile environment in addition to making it lose its status, on top of losing revenues for tour operators.   

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Adam Ihucha - eTN Tanzania

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