DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (eTN) – More than a month-long power blackout in Zanzibar is apparently threatening the Island’s tourism with possible cancellations on hotel bookings in case the situation continues.
Famous for its warm sandy beaches, spice aroma, water-sports and old Arab architecture, the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania had experienced zero electricity supplies since December 10 last year, with most hotels going with standby generators.
Signaled a bad omen in its tourism, Zanzibar government had put it clear that hydro-electric power supply will be restored on February 20, almost 40 days ahead, in case things work accordingly.
The main island of Unguja, famous for its pristine beaches and historical sites has been going without power to breakdown of the undersea cable providing electricity from the mainland of Tanzania.
Hotel operators have been forced to use standby generators to run their business while complaining of high costs of fuel and maintenance of the power generating equipment.
Zanzibar, which is currently on tourism season, is apparently in danger to lose a big stake from tourists because some visitors have opted to cancel or making short their stays in the island to escape hiked prices from the operators.
Tourist stakeholders in the archipelago said the standby generators that are in current use couldn’t operate 24 hours other than being too expensive to afford. The generators are used to light the rooms, cooling systems in rooms, refrigeration equipment and kitchens.
But the Isle’s Tourism, Trade, and Investments Minister Samia Suluhu Hassan said that the tourism sector, particularly the flow of tourists from abroad has not been much affected.
She said flights bringing tourists to Zanzibar were stable and there were new planes from Russia and Europe landing in the island.
The flow of tourists shows that lack of electricity has not caused any big impact on tourism, she said, adding that many tourist hotels have been using generators for operational efficiency.
“We thank hoteliers for their efforts to keep guests in convenient environment as the government speeds up efforts to resolve the crisis,” she said.
She also said that the government would make sure of constant availability of fuel to run the generators. Zanzibar government is expecting to receive more standby generators by mid next month.
But the Isle’s Energy Minister Mansour Yussuf Himid said the blackout would last six more weeks, amid mounting criticism of the government over a crippling electricity crisis.
“We expect that we shall have power on the island on February 20,” the minister said at a press conference in the island’s capital Stone Town.
Officials have already reported a drop in revenue collection due to the blackout and warned that the peak tourism season was also being affected.
Dominated mostly by Moslems and with rich Islamic cultures, Zanzibar has been the most tourist-haunted destination in Eastern Africa coastal beaches.
Following the sharp-drop of clove prices in global markets, Zanzibar’s economic mainstay had become tourism, a sector that accounts for about 20 percent of the islands Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The semi-autonomous archipelago is located 40 nautical kilometers (25 nautical miles) off the coastline of mainland Tanzania and is popular by its fast growing tourism and luxury tourist accommodation facilities.