TOURISM is one of our leading foreign exchange earner, a big source of trade and employment opportunities for Tanzanians and a key driver to economic growth and development.
The sector registered growth last year when it was least expected by some stakeholders due to imposition of an 18 per cent VAT on tourism services in 2016 which was expected to reduce international visitors.
Official statistics show that tourist arrivals reached 1,284,279 in 2016 up from 1,137,182 tourists in 2015, which is equivalent to an increase of 12.9 per cent. Earnings from the sector reached 2.0 billion US dollars in 2016 against 1.9 billion US dollars in 2015.
For 2016/17 financial year, the sector contributed to 17.5 per cent to Tanzania’s GDP and 25 per cent foreign currency earning. During the same period, 500,000 people were directly employed in the tourism industry.
It is estimated that its contribution to the economy will be much more when one considers its indirect impacts on other areas such as agriculture and transportation. However, not all is well in the sector.
It has come to light that some of our own people are messing with management of the sector for personal gains. There are reports that the long-awaited new system for grading the standard of hotels and lodges was marred with corruption.
The new Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Hamisi Kigangwalla has so far nullified result of the recent hotel grading exercise citing complaints of irregularities from stakeholders.
Addressing stakeholders in travel and tourism, conservation and hospitality industries at the climax of his week-long tour of Arusha Region, the minister said the hotel grading exercise whose second instalment results were announced some two weeks ago left a lot to be desired on how it was conducted.
We think that it should not end with annulment of results only but go further to identify those behind the scam and be dealt with accordingly to provide a lesson to other that we are serious when it matters most.
We should not entertain people who play with something so dear to us.