Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Tanzania's Big Win At the Oscars a Plus for Tourism

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Tanzania might not have had any expectations at the 2018 Oscars but they were East Africa's biggest winners on the night.

Ugandans of course were hoping that British-born Daniel Kaluuya would win Best Actor for his role in the horror comedy film Get Out, and Kenyans were crossing fingers for Watu Wote, nominated for the Best Short Film.

Following Academy tradition, Oscar nominees were treated to lavish swag bags from sponsors from marketing company called Distinctive Assets.

Here is the Tanzanian connection. This year the nominees received really extravagant gift bags with more than $100,000 worth of goodies including an exclusive voucher for a 12-night luxury safari in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park.

The voucher covers adventure-packed excursions during the day and luxury lodges and tents at night, surrounded by the famous Big Five and wildebeest, zebra, hyenas and other abundant wildlife.

Luxury safaris don't come cheap and this is a big boost for Tanzania tourism which has been on the rebound lately, proving that the marketing, quality and product offering are paying off by attracting big spenders. And they don't come bigger than Hollywood's A-list.

Tanzania is also the only country in the region whose tourism advertising graces the stadia hosting the English Premier League games.

To give perspective to the 12-day safari, the goody bag entails not one, not two, not three but four vacations. There is a stay at Avaton Luxury Villas Resort in Halkidiki in Greece, which overlooks the Athos Peninsula and the Aegan Sea, where the gods supposedly lived.

Then there is a week-long stay at Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu in Hawai'i. It's a luxury five-star resort with waterfalls and it's very own tropical rain forest.

Last is a week-long spa trip at the Golden Door in southern California for indulgence at the popular celebrity SoCal spa, Golden Door. It offers massages, skin, body and hair care.

Other gifts include a conflict-free diamond necklace. Among those who received the goody bags are Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Meryl Streep and Margot Robbie who was nominated for Best Actress for her role in I, Tonya as disgraced US figure skater Tonya Harding.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Wildlife in Major game Reserves face Threat as Mara River Dries up

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Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, and the adjoining game-controlled areas have only one year-round river, the Mara. However, the drought that has continued ravaging various parts of the country now threatens wildlife in the world-famous parks as the as the Mara River, which serves as the heart of tourism in these areas is on the verge of drying up.

It is evident that the water level in the key river has reduced drastically, portending danger in the near future. The destruction of the Mau Forest complex, the source of the river, has been blamed for the current situation. The drying up of the river spells doom for tourism prospects at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

A spot check of the river reveals that crocodiles and hippos are dying as the Mara and its tributary, Talek River, are drying up. Wildebeests and zebras, among other wild animals, have been crossing the dry river beds, heading to Tanzania to seek for greener pastures.

In some parts of the river is now just a small channel.

Crocodiles and hippos are competing for pools of water that remain along the almost drying river. Conservationists also argue that the Mara ecosystem is now more polluted than ever before and is still under enormous threats arising from human activities. The Mara is a trans-boundary resource shared by Kenya and Tanzania and it covers an area of 13,500 square kilometres with 65 percent of it being in Kenya.

The conservationists warn that the drying up of the Mara River whose source is the Mau Forest is one of a series of ominous signs that could lead to an ecological disaster. The river covers three counties of Bomet, Narok, Kericho and Nakuru which also are part of the Mau Forest ecosystem, a critical catchment of the Mara River basin.

“This climate change issue and occupation of the Mau Forest is negatively affecting wild animals and is causing changes in their breeding grounds, animal populations, increased animal deaths, changes in migration routes and patterns,” said Mr Parmataro Lemein, a wildlife scientist based at Matira camp.

Mr Lemein’s concerns are inspired by the irregular flow of the Mara and its main tributary, Talek River, which has become more and more extreme, with conservationists warning it might cause a collapse in the wildebeest populations, thus hampering the entire migration cycle that sustains the Maasai Mara-Serengeti ecosystem.

“Aquatic life is being threatened here. Hippos and crocodiles are fighting for space in the pools of water that equally have turned dirty due to stagnation. The water is diminishing, causing stress to the underwater animals and often (resulting in) regular fights over territory,” added Mr Lemein.

The Mara-Serengeti ecosystem coordinator Nick ole Murero noted that there has been constant migration and dispersal of wildlife in the recent past and attributed it to the changes in climate and destruction of the Mau Forest, the source of the river.

“The climate in the Mara is becoming unbearable. The animals tend to move to other areas where they can be able to survive. The Mara River is a source of life but there is no water,” said Mr Murero. He said thousands of hippos, elephants, wildebeests, and buffaloes have migrated to Serengeti park in Tanzania after several streams and water dams within the Mara dried up.

Local tour operators and hoteliers have so far raised the red flag over the current human population growth rate coupled with excessive exploitation of natural resources within the core areas of the Mara River basin.

However, all is not lost.

Last week the Narok County government imposed a permanent charcoal ban and logging following widespread outcry over loss of forests, a fact that continues to expose Kenya to the vagaries of climate change.

Governor Samuel ole Tunai’s announcement came two days after Deputy President William Ruto suspended logging in all forests in the country for the next three months as water levels in major rivers countrywide continued to drop at alarming levels.

Mr Tunai said all logging activities in Mau Forest, Nyakweri Forest in Transmara, Enoosupukia Forest in Narok East and Loita Forest in Narok South have been banned and declared illegal.

“We are also rolling out a massive afforestation programme to plant trees in the Mau and along the riparian areas of the Mara River,” said Mr Tunai. Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala hailed the ban on charcoal burning and logging by both the county and national governments, saying it will go a long way in saving both human and wildlife along the Mara River basin.

“The Mara River ecosystem is the lifeline of people in this region. There is therefore an urgent need for communities living along the basin to embrace the conservation efforts being put in place.”

Thursday, February 22, 2018

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WOMEN operators in tourism industry will meet for a one-day symposium dubbed 'Women in Tourism 2018' in Serengeti National Park this week to discuss the role of women in society and participation of women in the labour market.

The meeting will be held on February 25 this year, in Asilia's Dunia Camp, an all female operated property in the Serengeti National Park.The event is being organised by Hotels Association of Tanzania in collaboration with association of Women in Tourism Tanzania (AWOTTA) and Tanzania Tourism Board (TTB). The Chief Executive Officer of the Hotels Association of Tanzania (HAT), Ms Nura-Lisa Karamagi, said yesterday that the occasion will bring together women from private and public sectors who are in the tourism industry to discuss and share experiences about the barriers and challenges facing women in the industry and how they are being overcome.

"The forum is meant to show the public that women play a significant role in the growth and development of tourism sector and are continuously challenging themselves to even greater roles - especially ones that have been traditionally thought to be the reserved for men --- from aviation to game ranging. Their potential to make meaningful contribution to the growth of the sector should not be underestimated," she stressed.

The Serengeti symposium is planned to be a curtain-raiser for this year's annual International Women's Day that will be celebrated next month. The theme for this year's international women's day is to Press for Progress. The seminars will discuss barriers inhibiting women from taking up potential opportunities to advance themselves in the sector and how Tanzania can advance initiatives being taken to change the stereotypes surrounding the role of women in society.

The host of the event, Dunia camp, is one of the unique examples of a camp that is breaking some of the stereotypes. The CEO said women around the world have more choices now but are still under represented in many levels. She commended the fact that women are holding top positions but, she added that "the positions do not necessarily come with the authority to make decisions.

" In Tanzania, she explained, unemployment for women stands at 12.3 per cent as against 8.2 per cent for men. In cities unemployment for women stands at 32 per cent while that for men is 11 per cent.

She said in Tanzania tourism industry is the second largest service sector that has enormous potential to employ and empower women even in positions that have traditionally been considered for men.

The symposium will draw women from the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, the Ministry for Education and Vocational Training, Tanzania Tourism Board (TTB), the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, TANAPA, NCAA, TAWA.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Tanzania plans to Construct 15 Airstrips to serve Southern Tourism Circuit

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A Tanzanian senior official said on Wednesday the government planned to construct 15 airstrips in the southern circuit of the east African country to boost tourism.

Hamisi Kigangwalla, Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, said the construction of the airstrips will go in tandem with the diversification of tourist attraction centers.

"The southern tourist circuit is overwhelmed with too many attractions. It needs to be improved to attract more tourists from across the world," Kigwangalla told the National assembly in the capital Dodoma.

The minister said the government's focus for now was to develop the southern tourism circuit and look for other tourism products across the country.

He said airstrips to be built at four national parks in the southern tourism circuit will facilitate smooth transport services to local and foreign tourists.

Kigwangalla said the airstrips will be built at the Selous Game Reserve, the Ruaha National Park, the Mikumi National Park and the Udzungwa Mountains National Park.

Kigwangalla, responding to a number of issues raised by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Lands, Natural Resources and Tourism, said improvement of the southern circuit will also involve construction of a road from Iringa town to the entrance of the Ruaha National Park.

He told the House that tourism was among the number one sectors with huge contributions to the country's foreign currency earnings, adding that in the 2016/2017 financial year tourism contributed 2.1 billion U.S. dollars.

He said the tourism sector contributed 17.6 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and 12 percent of employment.

Kemilembe Lwota, the vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Lands, Natural Resources and Tourism, faulted the government over poor marketing strategies to advertise the country's tourist attractions within and outside the country.

Lwota said it was high time the government put in place strategies to identify, improve and market tourist attractions to be able to get intended revenues.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Tanzania - President Magufuli Launched the new Passport

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President John Magufuli became the first Tanzanian to get the document at a ceremony when he launched the new EA e-passport at the immigration headquarters in Dar es Salaam.

The issuance of the e passports is part of a wider strategy by the region to enhance integration with the passports set to be rolled out in other EAC countries in the coming months. Nearly 50 African countries have issued e-passports to their citizens including Ghana, Gabon, Egypt, Morocco and Mauritius The 35th EAC Council of Ministers which convened on April 4, last year, directed partner states to begin issuing EA e-passport from January 31, 2018, the EAC heads of state equally approved the decision.

Yesterday, the Minister for Home Affairs, Dr Mwigulu Nchemba handed over e-passports to top government officials led by President Magufuli and Zanzibar President Dr Ali Mohammed Shein.

Dr Magufuli launched the new passport at a function that was attended by top government leaders and retired presidents. The difference between the current passport and the e-passport is that the e-passport has a chip that stores the passport holder’s bio-metric information. According to Dr Nchemba, Tanzanian passport holders will now be required to replace the documents with electronic ones and that applicants will now be required to pay 150,000/- to get the newly improved document.

“In order to avoid the mistakes we made by issuing passports to non-citizens, this time around, we will start the process afresh and a person who wants to possess the new document will have to bringthe National Identity Card,” he added.

The Minister insisted, however, that the current ones will remain in use for two years until January 2020, before they are phased out. The international travel document will have diplomatic, service and ordinary categories and will be valid for 10 years. Among the reasons the EAC is launching electronic passports are to step up the war against terrorism and keep abreast with technological advancements globally.

According to Dr Nchemba, the new document has more pages than the current one and with improved security features; it will be easier for Tanzanians who lose their passports while abroad to get immediate assistance from Tanzanian embassies. In her remarks, the Immigration Department Commissioner General Dr Anna Makakala said Tanzania had fully complied with standards and guidelines set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and EAC Chief of Immigration on travel document design, processing and issuance.

She said the immigration had already initiated e-passport online application forms that enable every Tanzanian from around the world to apply for the new document. However, the Commissioner General noted, those who wish to collect registration forms from all immigration offices were allowed to do so.

On revenue collection, Dr Makakala said her institution had managed to increase revenue collection, saying that between July and December 2017, the immigration department collected 85.6bn/- , adding that with the ongoing reforms revenue collection will equally go up.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Tanzania to Auction 3.5 Tonnes of Hippo Teeth

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Tanzania is expected to auction 12,467 pieces of hippopotamus teeth weighing 3.58 tonnes on January 29, official said on Tuesday.

James Wakibara, Acting Director General of the Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA), said in a statement that the auction will be held in collaboration with the country's Natural Resources and Tourism Ministry.

According to statistics from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), since the trade began in 1975, over 770,000 kg of hippo teeth have been traded internationally. And it is estimated that over 75 percent came from two East African countries: Tanzania and Uganda.

Wakibara said that the auction is to be held in the nation's commercial capital Dar es Salaam on January 29, and the exercise will be supervised by the Ministry of Finance Planning.

"The auction is restricted to accredited traders with the first-class license offered in 2017," a TAWA official said.

Wkibara informed that interested buyers will be entitled to initial payments of at least 25 percent of the total cost on the same day and settle the remained balance within 14 days.

Tanzania conducted a countrywide census on hippopotamus in 2001 and the result showed there were 20,079 of them.

However, issuance of permits for export of hippo teeth was suspended since 2004 with exception of those obtained through sports hunting.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature, which monitors the conservation status of species, classifies hippos as vulnerable because threats of illegal, unregulated trade in their teeth, demand for their meat, and habitat loss are likely to continue. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Tanzanian Tour Operators Demand Single Online Tax Platform

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Tanzanian Tour operators have implored the government to invent an online platform for all taxes to be done electronically with an eye to root out bureaucracy and ease compliance.

Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) says that its members would like to pay all taxes in a single online platform to allow them ample time to search for business opportunities.

Representing over 300 tour operators, TATO is a leading lobby agency for a tourism industry that earns the country’s economy about $2.05 billion per annul, equivalent to 17 percent of the country’s GDP.

Highlighting key challenges facing the industry before the visiting deputy minister for Finance, Dr. Ashatu Kijaji, TATO Chairman, Mr Willbard Chambulo said multiple taxes compliance consumes a lot of time and money and could encourage tax evasion.

Available records indicate that tour operators are subjected to 37 different taxes, comprising business registration, regulatory licenses fees, entry fees, income taxes and duties for each tourist vehicle per annul, among others.

The TATO chairman argued that the contentious issue is not only how to pay myriad taxes and make profits, but also the modality and time spent in complying with intricate taxes.

“Tour operators need streamlining of taxes to ease compliance because the cost of compliance is so high and as such it acts as obstacle for voluntary compliance” Mr Chambulo explained.

Indeed, a study on Tanzanian tourism sector indicates that the administrative burdens of completing license tax and levy paperwork place a heavy cost on businesses in terms of time and money.

For instance, tour operator spends over four months to complete regulatory paperwork, whereas in tax and license paperwork consume his or her a total of 745 hours per year.

The report done by Tanzania Confederation of Tourism (TCT) and BEST- Dialogue, shows that average annual cost of personnel to complete regulatory paperwork per local tour operator is Tsh 2.9 million ($1,300) per year.

Tanzania is estimated a home to over 1,000 tour companies, but official data shows that there are as few as 330 formal firms complying with tax regime, which is likely to be due to the complexities of compliance.

This means that there could be 670 briefcase tour firms operating in Tanzania. Going by the annual license fee of $2000, it means that treasury loses $1.34 million annually.

TATO CEO, Mr Sirili Akko said: ‘No doubt that our members are compliant that is why they have audacity to request for a system which will relieve them of ‘long man hours’ in corridors of regulatory bodies. I am confident that our government will simplify payments systems for all government revenues including taxes as requested by private sector officials”

However, TATO hopes that the new system of issuing Tanzania Tourism Business License (TTBL) introduced by Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, Dr Hamis Kigwangala, would effectively bring informal tour operators into the tax net.

Late last year, Dr Kigwangala took a bold step in scrapping off the old $2,000 flat rate fee for TTBL for all local tour operators without considering the size and business of the company.

The Minister introduced a new category where TTBL fee for tour operators with between one and three tourist cars would be $500 in his efforts to spur the majority small scale tour operators to formalize their businesses and boost the tax base.

In her response, Dr Kijaji agreed with TATO’s chairman arguments, vowing that the government would work on system where businessmen would be paying all taxes under one roof to offer them a hassle free taxes compliance.