Art, Culture, Books and Travel
Tourism should be key integral part of national growth
By Paul Kibuuka
In its latest monthly economic review, Bank of Tanzania (BOT) shows that tourism has emerged the top foreign exchange earner last year and basing on its great potential, the sector has much to be confident about in 2014.
The Central Bank said in its latest monthly economic reviews tourism had maintained growth to become the leading earner of hard currency overtaking gold whose performance was undermined by low output and a decline in global price.
According to the report, foreign exchange earnings from tourism for 2013 were US $ 1.88 billion up from US$ 1.7 billion in 2012 and US$ 1.35 billion in 2011.
This comes at a time when various international surveys reveal that Tanzania ranks highly in “search engine appeal” in the fields of Tourism and Investment, making the country more likely to attract tourists and international investors in 2014.
According to the reports, Tanzania’s tourism ranking is high because it is offering a tourism experience based on natural wonders and safari.
The most popular online searches unsurprisingly were about “safari”, “hiking” and “protected areas.
In all, experts say the tourism sector holds great potential because of the government’s resolve to diversify the source market to focus into Far East and ambitious strategies to improve transport infrastructure which include air transport, roads and railways.
Asia was one of the world’s travel hotspots in 2013 mainly driven by China’s strong economic growth.
According to World Travel Trends Report 2013/2014 Outbound trips by Asians grew by 8 per cent over the first eight months of 2013 and outbound trips by Chinese travellers soared by 26 per cent.
A researcher, Robert Erbes, has put forward the view that everything seems to suggest that developing countries look upon tourism consumption as manna nom heaven that can provide a solution to all their foreign settlement difficulties”.
To some degree, he notes, this description of tourism as “manna from heaven” has gained some support, in part because tourism is a highly visible activity. Critics might conversely argue that the statement is rather absurd, if not over-simplistic, given the well-recognised weaknesses of tourism as a viable development strategy for less developed countries.
Whatever the outcome of this particular debate, Erbes’ statement and research since then have focused attention on the far-reaching implications of tourism (for example, its strengths and limitations) as being a means of assisting in the process of development.
And in a paper titled ‘Principles of Tourism in Development and Africa’, Peter Dieke another researcher on the same subject, notes that many developing countries now regard tourism as an important and integral part of their economic development strategies.
Interestingly, Dieke argues that in many developing societies, tourism is perceived as a panacea for their fragile economies that are characterised by a scarcity of development resources such as finance and expertise.
These resources are needed to increase the economic surplus, without which these countries would be forced to rely solely on international aid to support development efforts.
Therefore the well-recognised benefits of tourism are the usual reasons advanced for governments ‘ support for tourism.
The benefits are usually felt at two levels: macro or national level and micro or sub national or local level. At the first level, tourism is expected to foster economic growth through foreign exchange earnings and an increase in state revenue and, at a second level, an improvement in the people’s well-being in the areas of job creation, revenue/income distribution and balanced regional development.
In this respect, he argues, tourism is described as an industry although it has no single production characteristics or defined operational parameters.
Yet, the sector is also multi-faceted and its economic dimension cannot occur without inputs of a social, cultural and environmental nature.
In that respect, it needs to be stated that as demand for tourism increases, so too will it bring with it not only opportunities for linkages with other sectors in the economy, but also consequences of a social, cultural, and environmental nature.
These consequences, such as crowded airports and urban traffic congestion, affect both the public and private sectors. In these areas where tourism impacts on the country and society, there may well be conflicts with competing demands for other sectors of the economy, or with community interests at large.
To put the optimistic projection for growth of the sector in perspective, the World Tourism Organization (WTO, 1999) estimate is that the 625 million tourists who travelled world-wide in 1998 generated about US $445 billion (excluding transport).
For the period under consideration, Africa received nearly 8 percent of the global tourist trips (25 million arrivals), an increase over the 1997 level of 6.1 percent (23 million tourists).
Similar increases in receipts were recorded, and the region’s share rose from3.3 percent (US $9 billion) in 1997 to 5.9 percent (US$10 billion) in 1998. Within Africa, the Northern sub-region had the highest share of traffic (34.6 percent) and revenue (33 percent), followed in descending order by Southern Africa, Eastern Africa, Western Africa, and Middle Africa.
In developing tourism in Africa, the following areas for policy consideration are important, including: well conceived and well articulated but realistic tourism policy objectives, local involvement and control over tourism development, forging private-public sector partnerships for tourism development, raising gender awareness to enhance women participation in the tourism sector, promoting regional tourism co- operation and integration and allocation of appropriate resources.
In terms of infrastructure, already, Arusha city ranks second after Dar es Salaam in terms of the number of quality hotel beds despite being the Tanzania’s tourist hub, according to the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Mr Lazaro Nyalandu.
The municipal city which receives more than 80 per cent of the total number of foreign visitors, deserves more than the 2800 tourist-standard hotel beds, according to Mr Nyalandu.
Tanzania’s most popular destination, the Serengeti National Park (measuring 1.5 million hectares), has just 1,540 hotel beds while the neighbouring Maasai Mara, on the Kenyan side whose size is 30 per cent of Serengeti, has more than 5,000 hotel beds.
Therefore, it should be added that for the tourism sector in Tanzania and the rest of Africa to respond to changing realities in the international tourism market scene, the strategic development of the industry is paramount.
This requires co-operation from all concerned -the tourism industry, the government and indeed, the international community to make it happen.
The author is Managing Partner at Kibuuka Law Chambers and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
← Previous Story South Africa’s creative industry gets government boost