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Tanzania Hosts Africa ConferenceJuly 21, 2008 By: Nick Gosling Travel Agent
Onsite at the Africa Travel Association’s 33rd Annual Conference
At the Africa Travel Association’s 33rd Annual Conference in Arusha, Tanzania, the country’s tourist board confirmed a goal of attracting 1 million tourists by 2010. “We still have a lot of other areas to promote and Tanzania’s quite big,” said Peter Mwenguo, Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) managing director. “We’re sure if we put more efforts into promoting our destinations that we can achieve that, but also more importantly is that 2010 is the year when Africa will be hosting the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Using that as a strategy, we’re sure we can attract more tourists to Tanzania.”
(Seated from letf) Executive Director of the Africa Travel Association Eddie Bergman, President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete and Minister of Natural Resources Shamsa Selengia Mwangunga
This year an expected 750,000 tourists will arrive in Tanzania, which is in Eastern Africa, bringing in about $950 million. Those tourists will explore the tallest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro; the deepest lake in Africa, Lake Tanganyika; and 15 national parks, among other attractions.
Mwenguo said the TTB is making a number of efforts to encourage tourism to the country, including promoting Tanzania to as many source markets as possible, looking at new markets like China, India, Japan and Western Europe and using different media outlets, including TV advertisements, aired in the U.S., UK and other parts of the world.
In 2007, for the first time ever, American visitors represented the largest single tourism market for Tanzania, overtaking the UK market and attracting a record high of 58,379 tourists.
“This is something of an achievement to us because we understand that the U.S. is a very huge market,” said Mwenguo. “Of course, there have been travel editors traveling for quite a number of years to make sure that the Americans know about Tanzania. Now that we have been able to achieve that goal of making America our number-one source market, we’d like to continue with our efforts of promoting our tourism [there].”
Massai demonstration at the ATA Annual Confernce
The Africa Travel Association (ATA) is the premier international travel industry trade association promoting tourism to Africa since 1975. The ATA’s Annual Congress was attended by approximately 350 people and was held at the Arusha International Convention Center from May 19 through May 23. The Congress was last held in Arusha in 1998.
This year’s attendees included Eddie Bergman, executive director of the ATA; Hon. Shamsa Selengia Mwangunga, minister of Natural Resources and Tourism for Tanzania; Hon. Samia Suluhu Hassan, minister of Trade, Tourism and Investments for Zanzibar; as well as ministers of tourism from several other African countries, travel agents and tour operators from around the world and members of the press. The president of the United Republic of Tanzania, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, spoke at the opening ceremony.
“You are gathered here today to discuss a very important sector and a major factor in the socio-economic development of African nations and peoples,” he said. “Tourism is a sector whose importance in the economies of many African countries is ever increasing. In some African countries, it is the anchor sector. But, tourism in Africa is still at a very infantile stage of development. With the vast tourist resources available in many nations in Africa, there is still greater potential for growth. In fact, what has so far been exploited is a very tiny fraction of the tourism potential that exists in our dear continent.”
Tanzania, home to exotic wildlife, plans to attract 1 million tourists by 2010
On the Agenda
Discussion panels were held throughout the week at the Congress. At a midweek session, tour operators and travel agents sat down to discuss how to “package Africa.”
Dr. Gaynelle Henderson-Bailey, of Henderson Travel Services & Africa Diaspora Heritage Trail, said “target marketing” is essential to selling Africa. “Our target marketing really has led us to the niche market of heritage tourism, African heritage tourism,” Henderson-Bailey said. “We’ve been packaging tours to Africa since 1957, when Ghana won its independence.
“[My mother and father] actually had to charter a plane and took a group over to celebrate Ghana’s independence. And they realized it was so exciting and so easy to do that they came back and that became the niche and the thing that Henderson Travel is most known for today.”
Kathy Moroney, owner of Distinctive Destinations travel agency in Sacramento, CA, said that Africa is a “difficult” destination to sell to potential clients. “It’s hard from the perspective that clients have a lot of fears,” noted Moroney.
Those fears include the distance involved in traveling to Africa, the cost of such a trip and concerns about safety and disease.
“And even if you get somebody who wants to go, very likely their friends and neighbors are going to raise all those issues and say, ‘You shouldn’t go,’” Moroney said. “For most people, it’s not a place to go—it’s a small percentage of the traveling American market.”
Anthony Kizito, executive director of Cordial Tours and Travel Services Ltd., said his company focuses on bringing over American tourists to Tanzania by promoting the country’s many unique destinations. “The good thing about Tanzania is it’s a very peaceful country,” Kizito noted. “There’s so much to see—it’s a destination that offers mountain climbing, beach holidays, safaris, nightlife—so there’s so much to do in Tanzania rather than just see animals. It gives [tourists] a chance to see a different world and at the same time be comfortable while doing it.”
The Congress concluded on May 23 with a speech by the president of Zanzibar and chairman of the Revolutionary Council, Dr. Amani Abeid Karume.
“I am glad to learn that the African Travel Association has a close working relationship with [its] American counterparts,” Karume noted. “I, having visited the United States just recently, have found a lot of interest from African Americans and others to visit Africa. This interest needs to be cultivated and developed into, perhaps, a tourist cultural visit by those in the Diaspora.”
That “Diaspora” refers to the forcing of any traditional or ethnic people to leave their homelands and the developments in their culture as a result of this dispersal.
Karume added that he believes the tourism industry “should also give due consideration to the promotion of intra-African tourism, as well as domestic tourism.” He noted that there are still several obstacles to tourism in Africa, including pockets of instability in some African destinations. Still, Karume believes that there is a need to further develop and promote tourism in the continent.