Iringa set to blossom with upcoming REGROW projects  

IRINGA: THE city of Iringa is on the brink of an exciting transformation, poised to become a vibrant hub of economic and social growth with the completion of two landmark projects under the Resilient Natural Resource Management for Tourism and Growth (REGROW) initiative in the Southern Circuit.

The upcoming construction of the Southern Circuit Tourism Destination and Wildlife Research Centre for Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) and the one-stop Southern Circuit Tourism Marketing Destination for Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) signal a new era of prosperity and opportunities for Iringa residents and the government at large.

Valued at a significant 1.5bn/-, the Southern Circuit Tourism Destination and Wildlife Research Centre will serve as a focal point for research, conservation, and educational initiatives, positioning Iringa as a leading centre for wildlife studies and sustainable tourism practices.

This state-of-the-art facility will not only attract researchers and scholars from around the world but also create employment opportunities for local residents, thereby fostering economic growth and development within the community.

Similarly, the construction of the one-stop Southern Circuit Tourism Marketing Destination, with an investment of 21bn/-, is set to revolutionize Iringa’s tourism industry by providing a centralized platform for marketing, promotion, and coordination of tourism activities in the region.

According to the Head of Government Communications in the Ministry, John Mapepele, during a recent visit to two adjacent strategic projects in the Kihesa Kilolo area in Iringa, the two projects under the umbrella of REGROW, will continue to be of great benefit in increasing the number of tourists, increasing income from tourism activities, and improving the preservation and management of wildlife resources.

He said the government’s commitment to advancing the tourism sector has yielded notable results, with international tourist arrivals surging by 96 per cent from 922,692 in 2021 to 1,808,205 last year.

“Moreover, domestic tourist visits have risen by 152 per cent during the same period, reaching 1,985,707 tourists last year from 788,933 tourists in 2021,” he said.

He added that “this great record has never been reached in our country before.”

Detailing the substantial growth in tourism revenue in the country, he said that income for international tourists has escalated from 1.3 billion US Dollars in 2021 to 3.4 billion US Dollars in last year, equivalent to an increase of 161 per cent.

Moreover, he said the income from domestic tourism has increased from 46.3bn/- in 2021 to 175.3bn/- last year, equal to a 279 per cent surge.

He also mentioned that the enhancement of wildlife resource protection and management has allowed Tanzania to maintain its leading position in Africa, with approximately 17,000 lions, 225,000 buffalo, and 24,000 leopards.

“Meanwhile, statistics indicate that the rhino population has surged from 163 in 2021 to 252 as of April this year.” he noted.

In line with that, Mapelele called on media engagement in promoting Tanzania tourism destinations and highlighting government initiatives like the REGROW Projects, emphasizing the importance of showcasing the sector’s achievements and fostering positive outcomes.

The REGROW project, among other things, seeks to strengthen the management of protected areas and promote nature-based tourism in Southern Tanzania.

Literally, this strategic initiative will enhance Iringa’s visibility on the global tourism map, attracting a diverse range of visitors and investors eager to explore the rich cultural heritage and natural beauty of the Southern Circuit.

Upon completion of these groundbreaking projects in the picturesque Kihesa Kilolo area of Iringa, scheduled for February next year, the city is expected to experience a surge in tourism traffic, leading to increased revenue generation, job creation, and infrastructural development.

The spillover effects of these projects will extend beyond Iringa’s borders, benefiting neighbouring regions and stimulating the tourism sector in the Northern Circuit as well.

Principal Tourism Officer, TTB Southern Zone, Tully Kulanga, attributed the tourism sector’s growth to various factors including the popularity of the Royal Tour documentary, diversification of tourism products, private sector involvement, and the implementation of REGROW projects.

Senior Tourism Officer at TTB Northern Zone, Mr Sane Tobico, provided insights on the progress of the Southern Circuit Tourism Marketing Destination Centre construction, emphasizing its role as a hub for industry stakeholders and a key attraction in the region.

He said the state-of-the-art facility aims to accommodate large gatherings and cater to 300 visitors simultaneously, promising a transformative impact on the area upon completion.

He added that the construction progress stands at 20 per cent, with the project slated for completion early next year, heralding a new era for tourism promotion and collaboration amongst key players in the sector.

“Thanks to REGROW, the future looks promising for Tanzania tourism, with concerted efforts towards sustainable growth, wildlife conservation, and enhanced visitor experiences set to elevate the country’s standing as a premier tourism destination,” he stressed.

By leveraging the potential of the REGROW projects, Iringa is poised to emerge as a model of sustainable development and environmental stewardship in Tanzania.

The synergy between conservation efforts, tourism promotion, and community engagement will not only enhance the quality of life for Iringa residents but also contribute to the overall socio-economic progress of the country.

The Southern Circuit is the lifeline of the country. It is largely a water source and catchment area in Tanzania, hence significant for supporting the REGROW project, which among other things, seeks to strengthen the management of protected areas and promote nature-based tourism in Southern Tanzania.

In 2017, Tanzania received funding from the International Development Association (IDA), housed by the World Bank (WB) in the form of a 150 million US dollars (about 350bn/-) soft loan credit to finance the cost of the REGROW project. The implementation of a six-year project is geared towards transforming the tourism sector in the Southern Circuit.

As we look towards a future filled with promise and opportunities, the transformative impact of the REGROW projects on Iringa’s landscape and livelihoods is indeed a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and foresight in shaping a brighter tomorrow for generations to come.

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