Dar es Salaam – Tanzania’s global ranking in travel tourism competitiveness has fallen by 12 places, even as the industry recovers from the economic downturn.It is an indication that there is a need for the country to increase investment in the industry to make it a more attractive destination, a new Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011 says.
The country is ranked 110th overall among the 139 surveyed, a sharp decline from the last assessment in 2009 mainly due to inadequate tourism policies, poor transport and tourism infrastructure, and poor quality of human resources and health services. Security issues also ruined the country’s tourism attractiveness.
In fact, all the African countries – with the exception of Tunisia and Mauritius – performed poorly. The two were the only countries on the continent appearing among the best 55 globally. Rwanda was the best performer in the region at 102nd position globally followed by Kenya (103th), Tanzania (110th), Uganda (115th) and Burundi (137th).
After performing well in the natural environment category in previous years, Tanzania, which was ranked 11th in the region, seems to be falling in that category, too, according to the report which was released recently.
“Tanzania places second worldwide for its natural environment, with several world heritage natural sites, rich fauna, and a much-protected land area. This is buttressed by some focus in the country on environmental sustainability (ranked 43rd), although there has been a weakening in this area since the last assessment,” said the report, whose Tanzanian findings were co-authored by the Dar es Salaam-based Research on Poverty Alleviation.
It added: “Tanzania’s policy environment is not sufficiently supportive of the development of the sector, and, in fact, is measurably less so than it was in the last edition of the Index, continuing a downward trend from previous years.”Other issues of concern, according to the report, are security levels in the country, suggesting that focus must be placed on improving the health of the workforce, upgrading the education system, and improving all types of infrastructure.
Some local experts, who commented on the report, said the findings reflected the poor state of Tanzania’s infrastructure and social services. The rail and road systems are still poor. The central railway system, which could have opened the western tourism circuit, is virtually collapsing.
The lack of a well functioning national carrier has also cost the country dearly. “We do not need to complain about the poor ranking taking into consideration the poor state of affairs. What we need is more investment in our infrastructure and other key tourism facilities,” said Dr Honest Ngowi, an economics lecturer at Mzumbe University Business School.
He said the unending power rationing was a key reason for failure to maintain a good position at the international level. He urged the government and stakeholders in the tourism industry to ensure there is an attractive and conducive environment to promote tourism.
A tourism stakeholders’ forum held in Dar es Salaam early this month underscored the need for increased investments in the physical and soft infrastructure as well as tourism promotion.
The Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) managing director, Dr Aloyce Nzuki, told the meeting that the Sh3 billion allocated to promotion this financial year was not adequate. Neighbouring countries and competitors had put in more. “The Sh3 billion is a small amount compared to Kenya and South Africa, which set aside Sh12 billion and Sh65 billion, respectively, per year for the same function…and that is why they have been doing better in tourism,” said Dr Nzuki.
The chairman of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (Tato), Mr Leopold Kabendera, said the destination marketing budget should be 25 per cent of the total tourism receipts to begin with and should increase as time goes.
The Hotel Association of Tanzania (Hat) chairman, Mr Damas Mfugale, said improvement of the country’s infrastructure and transport services, would make it a more accessible destination and improve competitiveness. “Poor roads and power shortages make tourists feel uncomfortable and erodes the competitiveness of the destination,” he said.
The CEO of Precision Air, Mr Alphonse Kioko, called for the reduction of the tax burden for transport services to improve Tanzania’s tourism.He said currently the industry faced high prices of fuel and an unreliable tax system which resulted in higher fares.
“Tourists do not only want warm people and safe and secure destinations, but also a reliable transport system, both air and land, which is cost-effective,” said Mr Kioko.Areas that were surveyed in the report include policy rules and regulations; environmental sustainability; safety and security; health and hygiene; and prioritization of travel & tourism.
Others include air transport infrastructure; ground transport infrastructure; tourism infrastructure; ICT infrastructure; price competitiveness in the travel and tourism industry; human resources; affinity for travel & tourism; natural and cultural resources.
The report said that travel and tourism (T&T) remained a critical economic sector worldwide, with the potential to provide international economic growth and development. A growing national T&T sector contributes to employment, raises national income, and can improve the balance of payments, it said. Thus the sector is an important driver of growth and prosperity, particularly within developing countries, as it can also play a key role in poverty reduction.