FOR the first time the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) took part in hosting wealthy South African tourists organized by a South African private railway company, called Rovos Rail. The company runs its train-hotel to a regular schedule on various routes throughout Southern African countries, from South Africa to Tanzania. The tourists left Dar es Salaam for home on Tuesday. Our Correspondent MOSES FERDINAND had a brief interview with the TTB Managing Director DEVOTA MDACHI on this tourism plan. Among several issues, the MD said the board encourages villages to establish cultural tourism groups that will serve tourists and make a living.
QUESTION: The TTB has prepared itself fully to receive the Rovos Rail train tourists. The guests arrive in Dar es Salaam on Thursday, any changes? Answer: It was planned that visitors arrive in Dar es Salaam on Saturday not Thursday. They arrived on Saturday as planned and left on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. Q. We are also this was your first time to take part in receiving the wealthy guests. Is that correct?
A. That is correct. It was our first time to take part in this venture. We did our best in playing host to the visitors who travelled on the Rovos Rail train.
Q. Why did you decide to take part this time around?
A. The explanation is simple. We took part in the Indaba Tourism show in South Africa some months back. During our stay in South Africa, we held talks with the owner of the Rovos train. We discussed how we could closely work together to make sure that the visitors coming to Tanzania using that special train enjoy their visit while in our country and are accorded warm reception and publicity upon their arrival. You see, there are five such trips every year. We are keen on this venture because we shall use it to promote our country as a tourist destination.
Q. You were in close contact with Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (Tazara) on this venture. What was your role and what was Tazara’s?
A. As you might have noted over the years TTB uses various techniques and any available opportunity to promote Tanzania as a unique tourist destination. As I have just explained, our role is to promote our country using these tourists who are also using trains of TAZARA. We are also in talks with Tazara. We are exploring the possibility of introducing tourist train for domestic tourists that will be taking people from Dar es Salaam to Selous Game Reserve and other tourist sites and back to Dar es Salaam. So Tazara’s role remains the same: to ferry people or visitors from Dar es Salaam to identified stations that are near tourist attractions.
Q. After a morning excursion to Chisimba Falls in Zambia, guests traveled straight to our common border. Who represented you at the border; at Makambako?
A. Not this time. We were not represented. However, once it becomes necessary to deploy our officers at Tunduma then we shall do so. This time we met the visitors at Tazara station in Dar es Salaam. At the station we had an information desk with brochures for the tourists to view.
Q. If guests arrive in time, they enjoy a stroll downtown Makambako. Has the locals been mobilised (at least vendors) to seize the opportunity and sell to visitors some cultural craft at special reduced prices?
A. Traditionally, we encourage entrepreneurship in the tourism sector. We want our people to use every available opportunity to promote their skills and earn a living. We encourage them to do the kind of things you are talking about. We also have a Cultural Tourism Programme Office in TTB. This office offers technical advice to enterprising people; particularly those in villages to establish cultural tourism groups. Such groups would be trained to undertake tourism activities, like making and selling carvings, becoming tour guides and so on and earn some money. So we would like to take this opportunity to call upon the people in Makambako organise themselves, form and register groups so that they can serve visitors on the Rovos train when they take strolls through Makambako town and sell to those visitors different souvenirs and commodities.
Q. From our experience, South African guests, indeed everyone, are spellbound as the train descends into the Rift Valley and through the Udzungwa Mountains, negotiating the tunnels, switchbacks and viaducts of the escarpment--- on the journey to Mulimba. Usually, there are lectures by on-board historian. Do you plan to share the day’s leisure time with the historian?
A. That is a good idea. It is something we shall pay attention to so that in future passengers get an opportunity to know something about Tanzania and Tanzanian tourism industry.
Q. What did you plan for guests after arriving in Dar es Salaam and for all the days they were in Tanzania?
A. You see for a huge group of international visitors like these ones, every single visitor is attached to a tour operator. Everything is programmed according to the wishes of the visitor. The visitor identifies places he or she wishes to visit and all other minute details relating to ground transport and accommodation, where to go and what to see. Everything is agreed on well before the visitor starts travelling. For sure our visitors had a nice stay in our country. We hope the next tour will be as successful as this one or even better.