On a mission to promote Tanzania abroad

On a mission to promote Tanzania abroad

The visits were organised so as to equip envoys with first-hand knowledge of the country's natural resources especially in tourism so that they can be in a better position to market the attractions effectively.The ambassadors included Dr Deodorus Kamala (Belgium), Dr James Msekela (Italy), Dr Ladislaus Komba (Uganda), Mohamed H. Hamza (Egypt) and Philip Marmo (China). 

Early in Febraury they went to Serengeti National Park, Tanzania's most popular park, and world heritage site. The Park is famed for its annual migration, when six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson's gazelle join the wildebeest's trek for fresh grazing. 

Even when there is no migration going on, Serengeti offers arguably the most scintillating game-viewing opportunities in Africa. From great herds of buffalo to thousands upon thousands of eland, topi, kongoni, impala and Grant's gazelle.The envoys enjoyed two days of learning as they witnessed the migration of animals which takes place between January and March. 

After the adventure in Northern Circuit they moved to Katavi which is on Western Circuit.  Katavi is Tanzania's third largest National Park. It is found in the remote southwest part of the country, within the Rift Valley that terminates in the shallow, brooding expanse of Lake Rukwa.

Katavi's number one attraction is hippos. Towards the end of the dry season, up to 200 hippos flop together in any pool of sufficient depth. And as more hippos gather in one place, so does male rivalry heat up - bloody territorial fights are an everyday occurrence, with the vanquished male forced to lurk hapless on the open plains until it gathers sufficient confidence to mount another challenge.

The visit to Katavi gave an opportunity for them to pay a courtesy call to the Prime Minister's home where they were impressed by the premier's agricultural projects.The ambassadors then completed their adventure by visiting the Ruaha National Park in southern circuit.At Ruaha game viewing starts the moment the plane touches down. Giraffes race along the airstrip, all legs and neck, yet oddly elegant and zebras parade across the runway in the giraffe's wake.Beneath a bulbous baobab trees, a section of Ruaha's 10,000 elephants - the largest population of any East African national park, form a protective huddle around their young.

Second only to Katavi in its aura wilderness, Ruaha protects a vast tract of the rugged, semi-arid bush country that characterizes central Tanzania.On their seventh and last day the envoys flew back to Dar es Salaam and held a press conference organised by Tanapa.Tanapa has promised to do the same for new envoys and those who are already overseas representing the country in order for them to understand the challenges and opportunities of the Parks. 

The Tanzania Ambassador to Italy Dr James Msekela said they were surprised to learn that out of 15 national parks only two make a profit and three hardly break even.The parks that receive most visitors are Serengeti and Kilimanjaro followed by Tarangire, Manyara and Arusha national parks. "We have a huge task ahead of us in promoting tourism," he noted.

The National Parks that operate at loss include Mkomazi, Rubondo, Mikumi, Gombe, Mahale, Saadani, Ruaha, Katavi, Udzungwa and Kitulo.Msekela says they witnessed a big gap between foreign tourists and local ones. Most of tourists are foreigners.The number of international arrivals in Tanzania was 783,000 in 2010, according to a World Bank report released in 2011.

"In order for our parks to flourish we need to increase the number of tourists visiting the parks and in order to so we need to improve the infrastructure," Dr Msekela said.He said Serengeti is popular because the infrastructure is good and locals in the area are involved in the development and protection of the Park.  

Speaking on challenges Ambassador Hamza says the parks in Western and Southern Circuit are less developed."Serengeti can be entered through various routes but take a park like Ruaha there is only one route that is from Iringa town which we were told that during the rainy season it is a headache," he noted.

He says the number of hotel rooms in the parks is not sufficient to cater for more tourists. "This is another challenge even if we (envoys) promote the parks abroad and guests turn up where will they stay if the hotels in parks such as Ruaha  are rather limited?" asked Ambassador Hamza.According to Ambassador Hamza people living close to the parks invade the protected areas and therefore need to be sensitised. He added, "The government needs to do more to fight poaching as they were briefed by Tanapa that the problem is rampant as poachers use sophisticated weapons. 

"I think Tanapa needs helicopters for surveillance it will help to scare poachers," Komba added.On infrastructure he says the government needs to improve the quality of airports and airstrips in the western and southern circuit to make the areas easily accessible by tourists.He urges the government and Tanapa to set aside areas for investment so that investors can be easily be allocated land.Ambassador Kamala proposed for increased tourist fees to match the value the tourists get for seeing various attractions in the parks.

"The money tourists pay as park entrance is little in comparison to the value of attractions they see," Dr Kamala said adding that the fees should be revisited.According to Tanapa the fees for non-East Africans ranges between 40 to 100 US Dollars depending on the park and locals pay 1,500/- per person.Experts say that tourists pay a lot of money for full packages to travel agents and sometimes don't know how much they paid for entrance fees.

Kamala said that the envoys will play their part in promoting tourism abroad to make sure that the sector grows further and revenues increase."Our offices will be open for all stakeholders to use them and whenever you have something don't hesitate to tell us," he said.




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