Tanzania rolls out welcome mat for 90 million outbound Asian tourists


ARUSHA (eTN) – Tanzania is working overtime, rolling out the red carpet for nearly 90 million Asian tourists expected to travel abroad in 2011 and spend a staggering US$86 billion.

Tanzania, the second East African economic powerhouse after Kenya, has already launched a new tourism promotion blitz dubbed – “think Asia” with an eye to diversify its tourist sources.

Last week, the state recalled its high commissioners from Japan, China, Malaysia, India, and Russia to brainstorm over comprehensive approach to promote Tanzania’s tourist attractions in Asia, the biggest emerging travel and tourism market.

The recalled envoys include Omar Ramadhan Mapuri who represents Tanzania in China, Salome Sijaona (Japan), Cisco Mtiro (Malaysia), and John Kijazi (India), as well as Mr. Julius Mjema, an officer from the Tanzanian Embassy in Russia.

The Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB), the state-run marketing agency said that it has resolved to diversify its tourist market from the long-established sources of western countries and a few African counterparts.

Tanzania’s traditional tourist sources are Britain, Germany, the United States, Italy, France, Spain, and the Scandinavian countries.

It also receives a sizeable number of tourists from South Africa and Kenya.

“We are now generously throw[ing] our gates open for Indians, Chinese, and Japanese tourists. In a bid to woo them, we must use our envoys to promote our attractions there,” TTB Managing Director, Dr. Aloyce Nzuki, told eTurboNews at the Serengeti National Park, shortly after their three-day indoor talks with ambassadors.

Allan Kijazi, the Director of Planning and Tourism Services for Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA), said the “think Asia” strategy is targeting to tap at least 50,000 travelers out of 89 million Asian tourists expected to travel abroad this year.

Nearly 80 percent of all tourist arrivals in Tanzania are either from the US or Europe, said Mr. Kijazi, adding that it was risky to rely on just two foreign exchange sources, particularly during the turbulence.

“Asian countries are set to become the next big economies in the world. It is high time we started tapping such markets in order to diversify our tourist sources,” said Mr. Kijazi.

Asian outbound tourists
According to Travel Journal International (TJI), the number of Japanese and Indians heading overseas in 2011 are expected to reach 17 and 15 million, respectively, and will spend about US$31 billion combined.

More than 57 million Chinese tourists are expected to travel abroad this year, spending a staggering US$55 billion, the China Tourism Academy, a think tank to the tourism authorities, said in its latest report.

The report, the Blue Book of China’s Tourism Economy (2010-2011), said the travel boom will send 3 million more Chinese travelers abroad in 2011 than last year, with a larger amount of outbound tourist spending.

“China remains Asia’s largest source of outbound tourists, as the number of outbound travelers continues to soar,” said Dai Bin, head of the academy in the report.

The flourishing outbound tourism market is sending the wealth of China’s well-heeled tourists beyond the country’s borders.

It is estimated that last year’s 54 million Chinese outbound travelers spent US$48 billion aboard.

Tanzanian diplomats
Tanzania’s envoy to China, Omar Mapuri, vowed to pursue an aggressive marketing strategy in China by organizing shows and establishing a website using the Chinese language.

Mapuri said that China’s media was particularly accommodating and has been coming to Tanzania’s embassy for travel information.

Salome Sijaona, a Tanzania’s envoy to Japan, said the Japanese have money and like to travel, but the problem is they usually take short vacations of between one and two weeks.

In the absence of direct flights from Tokyo to Tanzania, she said, it would take them three days to reach the country via connection flights or six days for a return trip.

“If that is the case, their entire holiday will be spent on transit,” Ms. Sijaona said, adding, “[it is] obvious Japanese travelers would scout for destinations that can easily be reached.”

The diplomat added that people from Japan would also prefer to visit countries where their language is understood, and among the efforts to be made in selling Tanzania to Japan, is ensuring that people in the hospitality industry here also learned the Japanese language.

Tanzanian envoy to Malaysia, Mr. Cisco Mtiro, said his office is in talks with travel agencies and media outlets, and soon Kuala Lumpur is going to sample Tanzania’s attractions.

For his part, Mr. Julius Mjema said they are planning to use a special website, as well as Moscow’s TV and radio stations, to promote Tanzania as a tourist destination.

“But such media outlets prefer their own language, which means the material has to be translated into Russian,” Mr. Mjema noted.

In India, Tanzanian diplomat, Mr. John Kijazi, said he will bring a number of media practitioners and film makers to sample tourist attractions as part of its promotion.

Tourism growth
With a growth rate of 12 percent for the last four years, tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries, contributing 17.2 percent of the GDP and 41.7 percent of the country’s foreign exchange inflows in the last five years.

Available records show that Tanzania earned US$4,987.5 million from the tourism sector in the last four years. The industry employs nearly 200,000 Tanzanians directly.

Renowned for its relative calm in the region, the nation of about 40 million people aims to earn US$1.5 billion annually by attracting 1 million tourists per annum from 2011.

There are still great prospects for expansion and growth in this sector. There is a huge demand for more hotels, more trucks, more restaurants, more local and international flights, and more tour operators.

Tourists come to Tanzania to enjoy the beaches on its eastern coastline and the Zanzibar archipelago, its national parks such as the Selous in the southeast, the Serengeti in the north, and to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.