As it looks to develop its first new National Tourism Policy in 18 years, the Tanzanian government is likely to have a number of priorities in mind, including boosting visitor numbers, enhancing market and geographical diversification, and improving standards to ensure that the country retains its status as a high-end destination.
The new policy can draw on both the government’s overarching Five-Year Development Plan II 2016/ 17-2020/21 (FYDP II) and a report on the tourism industry published by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (MIT) in 2016 under the diagnostic trade integration study (DTIS). The former provides a framework and targets for development, and the latter offers a more granular analysis of the challenges that the sector faces and ways to address them.
The FYDP II, unveiled in April 2016, acknowledges the importance of tourism to GDP, foreign currency earnings and job creation. It aims to increase tourism’s share of GDP from 17.2% in FY 2014/15 to 18.3% by FY 2020/21, and then to 19.5% by FY 2025/26, raising the sector’s real growth rate to 6.2% by the beginning of the next decade and 6.5% by FY 2025/26. Visitor arrivals should grow to 1.76m by FY 2020/21 and 2.47m by FY 2025/26. The Tanzania Tourist Board set a considerably higher target of 3m by 2022.
The FYDP lists key interventions to achieve this: aggressive promotion and marketing of Tanzania as a unique tourist destination, diversification of tourism products, infrastructure upgrades, improving training and skills development, encouraging local tourism and creating a broader enabling environment for tourism business. These seek to emphasise Tanzania’s strengths and address the industry’s existing weaknesses.
The DTIS is a World Bankbacked in-depth analytical study of various sectors of the economy, which evaluates constraints to global economic integration and suggests policy actions to address them. According to the “Tourism Draft Report for the DTIS” by the MIT, “the tourism sector is performing at a fraction of its potential” and is underinvested, with too little linkage to domestic value chains that would benefit social and economic development. Local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular are too infrequently involved in the sector.
As the report notes, tourism is also heavily focused on the so-called northern circuit, a region which includes the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Serengeti, Lake Manyara, Tarangire National Park and Mount Kilimanjaro. Combined with Zanzibar, these destinations generate 80% of Tanzania’s leisure tourism. Poor infrastructure and a lack of marketing have so far held back the development of hugely promising destinations to the south, including the Selous Game Reserve. To this end, in late July 2017 the government announced a TSh340bn ($154.6m) plan to boost tourism in the southern circuit. The plan, financed by the World Bank, will upgrade roads leading to tourist sites in the zone.
The Way Forward
The DTIS report outlines policy recommendations, most of which involve the private sector having a stronger role. Taking human resources development as an example, the report suggests capacity-building for government employees in the tourism sector; broadening access to training, particularly for SMEs; and exploring opportunities for a public-private partnership to develop the National College of Tourism.
For the business environment, the report suggests establishing a one-stop shop to reduce the bureaucratic burden, with as much access as possible online. Streamlining taxes and fees and facilitating payments through a one-stop shop as has been done in Rwanda and Kenya is also recommended. This may ease pressure from the 2016 imposition of value-added tax.
Lastly, the report acknowledges a shortage of available land for tourism infrastructure. It suggests harmonising policies regarding granting concessions in protected areas that are significant for tourism. A centralised land database and security of tenure in these areas would also help prevent poor development.
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