v031108AS we are celebrating this important day, the nation can look back and say that the country has made strides in tourism. Despite a number of achievements that the country has recorded in the last 51 years, there are still a lot of challenges that still face the tourism sector.

One of the challenges was to put Tanzania on the world map, which our government has worked relentlessly with other global partners to achieve this.

But the major threat that is facing the tourism industry is the climate change. Many experts around the world have commented on Climate Change.

Their major concern is that climate change may affect the environmental systems of a range of international tourist destinations world-wide and the potential impacts these changes may have on tourism. Tanzania is not an exception. Tanzania has plains along the coast, a central plateau and highlands in the north and south. The country supports abundant and varied wildlife of immense scientific and economic value.

More than 21 thousand km2 have been set aside as national parks in East and South Africa, harbouring one of the world’s last and greatest wildlife populations. Serengeti alone is home to more than one million wild animals. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism reports Lake Manyara National Park, lying at the foot of the great Rift Valley, is a popular haven for a variety of animals and is well known for its extremely rich bird and animal life associated with the lake, as well as its large elephant population and tree-climbing lions.

For the sustainance of the wildlife, it is true that climate change has to be addressed in this context. Another achievement is on the number of overseas visitors which is growing in Tanzania. Here too, the chief attractions for tourists are the pleasant climate, the scenery and the wildlife reserves. The reported Climate change effects could affect vegetation and ecological zones and ultimately the distribution of wildlife.

President Jakaya Kikwete said recently that it is an open secret that tourism is an important sector for the economies of the East African Community (EAC) member states. Also, East Africa is an important tourist destination in the world. He added that the tourism and hospitality industry are key pillars of the region’s socio-economic development and poverty reduction endeavours.

Tourism has an incredible multiplier effect, better than many other sectors. According to the ministry reports Tanzania forecasts to attract 1.6 million tourists by 2015, double of the current figure of 800,000 visitors per year. Tanzania is striving to increase the number of tourists to the country when the United Nations World Tourism Organization forecasts a 50 per cent growth in Africa’s tourists arrivals over the next nine years – a massive increase from the current 50 million visitors.

Tanzania’s main tourist attractions are represented by the country’s abundant natural resources and wildlife with its 16 National Parks, the Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, the Ngorongoro Crater the world’s only wildlife packed Volcanic Crater and the spicy island of Zanzibar, to name the most famous.

In his remarks, the Chairman of the Tanzania Association of Travel Agents (Tasota), Mr Moustafa Khataw, in spite of the local and international challenges that faced the Tanzania travel and tourism industry last year, the sector performed well, but could still benefit from improved facilitation.

“Despite a number of challenges last year such as clients not settling their dues on time and some public agencies not honouring their commitments, business was not bad last year,” he said. “Our performance was also affected by pressing economic conditions in the national economy and the stalled global economic recovery.” Mr Khataw further encourages both Tanzania businesses as well as Tanzania authorities to welcome and support innovative digital technology that will be useful in the advancement of one of the key aspects in Tanzania tourism, travel facilitation.

“Prospects for 2012 are positive especially if we make the most of information and communication technology (ICTs) in improving visa application and processing formalities, as well as in making bookings and other travel arrangements,” said the chairman.

In its remarks the Ministry of Tanzania Tourism and Natural Resources, the country had anticipated the number of tourists to increase by 13-26 per cent in 2011, a projection that had been based on a combination of a new marketing strategy that had been put in place and on the anticipated global economic recovery.

“The government’s goal was to attract 900,000 to one million tourists in 2011 and we believe we are now better equipped to achieve this target,’ said a ministry statement. Based on statistics that were released in the UNWTO report, international tourist arrivals reached a total of 980 million last year, which represents an overall growth of 4.4 per cent in 2011 and it has been further predicted that international tourism will continue to expand in 2012 albeit at a slower rate that 2011, but nevertheless reaching the one billion mark by the end of the year.

It is absolutely true that a region may have natural beauty and all imaginable tourist attractions, but the challenge is without appropriate expertise to exploit that potential its people will not be able to benefit from the natural endowment.

The second challenge is lack of adequate supportive physical and institutional infrastructure to promote tourism in the region. Our physical connectivity in terms of roads, air and waterways are not well developed and in some places poor or non-existent. Another challenge is hotels, restaurants and other tourist services are inadequate.

Some of these hotels and related services are not of good quality. In this regard, therefore, we need to work together to overcome these shortcomings and improve regional connectivity and services to tourists. Therefore in order to improve tourism in the country this cannot be left for the government alone to do this. We need to encourage both the domestic and international private sector to rise to challenge and to invest in the tourism sector.