Let’s reimagine the future of tourism in Tanzania

By Zainab Salome

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s tourism sector is experiencing a rebound after the Covid-19 pandemic, and aspirations for its continued growth are high: by 2025, the country hopes to reach $6 billion in tourism receipts, accounting for the influx of five million tourists annually. Reaching these lofty goals will require some major upgrades and improvements to tourism infrastructure and services. I describe some of them in this article.

Before the pandemic, tourism was the largest foreign exchange earner, the second largest contributor to gross domestic product (GDP), and the third largest contributor to employment. After taking a heavy hit during Covid, tourists are beginning to return to Tanzania, with 742,133 visitors between January and July 2022, an increase of 62.7% from the previous year (Chart 1).

Annex 1: Tourism is making a comeback after the Covid-19 pandemic

tour 1

Source: NBS and Bank of Tanzania

But although we are doing well, many bottlenecks remain. These include limited access to cheap financing, inadequate tourism infrastructure, a multiplicity of levies, insufficient diversity in product offerings, and a lack of sufficient hotel and airport facilities. So how can we measure how we are doing?


Well, the World Economic Forum (“WEF”) in its Travel & Tourism Development Index 2021 (published in May 2022 and themed “Rebuilding for a Sustainable and Resilient Future”) is a barometer of where we stand. Tanzania is ranked 5the of Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries (and 81St. worldwide from 117 countries, compared to 86the in 2019). 1St. for 4the Mauritius occupies places within SSA (62North Dakota), South Africa (68the), Botswana (76the) and Kenya (78the), with 6the to 10the places occupied by Cape Verde (82North Dakota), Namibia (88the), Rwanda (89the), Zambia (98the) and Ghana (101St.).

According to the WEF report, Tanzania and South Africa are very clear leaders within SSA in terms of natural resource ranking. One aspect to consider as more of an important opportunity is the “non-leisure resources” pillar, which measures the extent and attractiveness of the factors that drive business and other non-leisure travel; although Tanzania’s ranking is in line with the SSA average, it is well behind Kenya and South Africa. More generally, the WEF report highlights that East Africa as a region does not rank as high as Southern Africa in terms of price competitiveness.

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Annex 2: Tanzania can do more to boost its tourism competitiveness

tour 2

Source: WEF Travel & Tourism Development Index 2021

Tourists who come to Tanzania often talk about seeing “the Big Five”. Stakeholders in the tourism sector would also say that they have their “Big Five”, that is, the “Five A’s”: Attractions, Access, Accommodation, Services and Affordability. From my perspective, and in line with this, I would highlight some priority areas that need to be addressed by the government and other actors in the tourism sector.

Reduce the multiplicity of levies and taxes. There is a need for a new look at tourism taxes and levies to reduce multiplicity and create competitiveness throughout the region; in fact, this point was highlighted as an urgent priority in a report recently presented at the 13the meeting of the National Business Council of Tanzania. Currently, Tanzania is considered an expensive destination compared to other destinations such as South Africa and Kenya. Despite positive efforts that led to the reduction of some of the levies, such as the Tourist Agency License Fee (TALA), there is still room for rationalization of the fees charged by multiple government agencies. In addition, the participation of stakeholders before the rate changes will facilitate the operations of tourism companies and attract more investment in the sector.

affordable financing. Tourism businesses across the industry, as well as those in downstream value chains, need access to affordable financing, especially in this post-COVID-19 era, when the risk appetite of financial institutions in the tourist market is very low. Support should be sought from International Development Agencies (IDA) in the tourism sector for development projects that have a direct economic impact on the sector and the country as a whole.

Improved infrastructure. Tanzania ranks higher than Kenya for safety and security, but lower than Kenya for tourism service infrastructure. For example, the drive from Dar es Salaam to Selous Game Reserve, the largest game reserve in Africa, is bumpy and long, taking an average of 7-8 hours. Flying is a better option and the fastest way to get to Selous. However, it is the most expensive and therefore suits the highest-end tourists. Once again, IDA support to improve tourism service infrastructure could provide a welcome boost.

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Improvements in hotels and airport facilities. A greater effort is required to attract private sector investment in hotels and guarantee diversity in the service offer. Current hotel capacity on both the mainland and Zanzibar cannot cater for the expected influx of 5 million tourists by 2025. Improving efficiency and flight handling capacity at airports is another area that requires fixing. The automation of immigration procedures at Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro airports will help speed up the process. Instead of having a document verification system, barcodes must be set up to scan all documents. This will help reduce unnecessary queues at airports during peak season.

Diversified tourism products. In addition to wildlife and beaches, the Ministry of Tourism should lead the innovation of new tourist attractions. The recent decision to commercialize the Ngorongoro-Lengai Geopark and the introduction of “Mice” (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) are commendable efforts as they will increase tourism revenue as Tanzania is an established adventure destination.

Introduction of direct flights and collaborations with the aviation industry. The signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Government of Tanzania and Dallas in April 2022 was one of the great achievements of the Royal Tour of the United States by His Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan, as this will attract more American visitors to tourist destinations in Tanzania. Adding more direct flights to key markets while maintaining closer collaboration between the aviation and tourism industries is necessary for the sustainable growth of the sector. This will facilitate the interconnectivity of flights for tourists who prefer interconnected trips.

public awareness. More education for the public and journalists is needed to help promote the tourism sector. Although we are in the era of free speech, care must be taken not to exaggerate unproven facts that harm the growth of the sector.

In conclusion, the goal of $6 billion by 2025 is achievable, but it will take deliberate efforts to make it a reality. The President’s Royal Tour is expected to bring a significant boost to the numbers in 2022 and beyond. The tourism sector should be given the highest priority due to its enormous potential to transform the country’s economy, as the sector contributes significantly to foreign exchange and employment.

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