Ferry disaster could ruin Tanzania’s tourist destination image


The maritime accident that hit Zanzibar last week has left tourism officials worried that recurring disasters could ruin Tanzania’s image as a tourist destination.

The accident is expected to have an effect on tourist arrivals in the Isles.

According to Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Ezekiel Maige, the message sent to tourists worldwide is that Tanzania is not safe in terms of transportation in the tourism sector. “Zanzibar is one of the key tourist destinations in the country and visitors to the island are package-tour tourists,” he said.

Fifteen years ago, the country experienced the first maritime disaster on May 21, 1996, when MV Bukoba capsized in Lake Victoria, just a few kilometres from Mwanza north port, killing over 800 people.

Initial reports indicate that in the current disaster, the ferry, MV Spice Islander, was overloaded and some passengers refused to board when it left Unguja port for Pemba.

Though ferries are the principal affordable means of marine transport passengers who regularly commute between the two islands said the vessels are in a poor state of repair and are often overcrowded and overloaded with cargo.

In the wake of the continued accidents (see main story) there has been a constant outcry to the authorities to effectively enforce maritime safety standards.

Passengers have been complaining about the poor state of some of the ships, including those plying between Zanzibar’s two main islands, Unguja and Pemba.