THE Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) needs no introduction in attracting many tourists every year.
From the Ngorongoro crater, which remains a spectacle to behold, to the shifting sand which continues to leave many visitors to the area in awe, NCA attracts around 700,000 tourists every year.
Now, in keeping pace with the sheer number of tourists flocking the area, NCAA has embarked on major infrastructural upgrade leading to some of its destinations.
Such undertakings include the hardening of the Loduare – Golini Road, a crucial 83-kilometre stretch which connects NCA with the Serengeti National Park.
The road, whose current status is murram will be upgraded into hard surface, a process which will cost the conservation agency 140bn/-.
“We’ve realised how important road network is in spurring tourism activities in our area and this will also assure comfort to our visitors as they sample our attractions,” disclosed Dr Freddy Manongi, NCAA’s Conservation Commissioner in a recent interview with ‘Daily News’.
Hardening of the surface, according to Dr Manongi will improve visitor experience and enhance conservation of the area.
He noted that the initial idea was to have the road tarmacked, and after getting a nod from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the prospects of having a tarmac road was still viable option.
“We however intend to begin with laying hard surface on it first,” said the NCAA’s Conservation Commissioner.
The stretch has for years been a subject of complaints from tour drivers plying between NCA and Serengeti National Park.
The drivers and tour operators alike have poked holes on the road as some of their vehicles developed mechanical failures on the stretch.
But with the rolled out plan of improving the road, there’s light at the end of the tunnel for the tour operators in the northern tourism circuit.
“This is no music to our ears, it is used to be a treacherous affair to us and our clients while using the road,” opined Mr Engelbert Aloyce, the Chairperson of Northern Tanzania Safari Guides Society.
The tour operator was confident that the move will spare NCAA the cost of periodic and routine maintanance of the road.
Available data indicates that NCAA spends a whopping 3bn/- every two years for maintaining the stretch.
Also on the conservation agency’s menu is the improvement of the Empakai viewpoint area to bolster tourism activities in the area.
Buoyed by its unrivalled scenery, the crater holds a beautiful round lake that occupies nearly half its floor.
The lake draws flamingos and other water birds and is surrounded by steep-sided, forested cliffs at least 300 meters high.
Dr Manongi also pointed out that NCAA is mulling over plans to construct a museum at Laetoli, once the 3.6
Million-year-old human footprints get exhumed and put for public display.
“This is a very feasible and viable option which will definitely release pressure on the crater as tourists will explore on other options,” he added.
Tourism, an important foreign exchange earner for Tanzania is seeing a rebound after the Covid-19 pandemic which lowered the number of visitors to 620,867 in 2020 from 1.5 million a year before, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
The number of arrivals increased to 922,692 in 2021 and for seven months of this year it reached 742,133, according to the bureau fuelling optimism about the future prospects of the sector.
The third Five-Year Development Plan (FYDP III of 2020/2021 to 2025/2026), lays emphasis in the 2 billion US dollars a year sector’s growth.
It prioritises the development and implementation of clear tourism legal and regulatory frameworks and strengthening public-private dialogue and collaboration.
Tourism accounts for more than 17 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 25 per cent of foreign earnings. The sector possesses significant potential to contribute to the national economy and foreign receipts on account of the unique natural attractions present in the country relative to elsewhere on the continent.
The tourist attractions present in the country include national parks and game reserves, plants, mountains, valleys, waterfalls, and coastal areas.
According to target indicators for the tourism sector, by 2025/26 real growth rate is projected to rise from the current 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent.
The plan envisages an average number of nights to be spent by a tourist to go up from 13 to 14, while average expenditure per tourist per day (non-package/package) (US) will increase from the current 216/379 to 326/455 in 2025/26.
The sector is envisaged to employ a total of 1,750,000 from the current 1,500,000, the share of foreign exchange earnings in percentage will rise to 27 from the current 25, while earnings from tourists are projected to hit 6 billion US dollars from 2.6 billion US dollars currently.