Over the last decade, South Africa and Kenya have basked in the tourism limelight, while Tanzania looked on from the sidelines. This is about to change in a big way, with Tanzania embarking on a historic marketing push that is sure to raise the profile of this East Africa country.
Tanzania announced the launch of its first TV tourism campaign in the U.S. market. The campaign is being aired on CNN, CNN Headline News, CNN Airport as well as CNN.com. "One of the objectives of this TV campaign is to boost American travel to our country so it becomes the number-one source of visitors to Tanzania worldwide," says Hon. Prof. Jumanne Maghembe, Tanzania's Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism. "We are confident that (with) our media campaign, together with a simultaneous Tanzania Travel Agent Specialist Program offered by Travel Agent University, we will be able to reach this goal by 2008."
Tanzania has a lot to offer visitors. It has 14 national parks and 33 game reserves, including Ruaha, the largest national park in East Africa. Tanzania is also home to Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge and the spice islands of Zanzibar.
"Our strengths as a tourism destination include our range of products, including our wilderness and diversity of wildlife, our adventure tourism, our cultural and historical offerings, our beaches and the friendliness of our people," says Peter Mwenguo, managing director, Tanzania Tourist Board.
For the past five years, The Tanzania Tourist Board has been marketing the destination in the U.S. through participation in trade shows and roadshows. "When I talk with tourists, one of their major misconceptions is thinking our greatest treasures, such as Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, are in Kenya," says Mwenguo. He attributes this to a lack of adequate promotion in major source markets and the fact that Kenya has promoted these attractions as being part of a visit to Kenya. "The only way to counter that is to put more resources into marketing Tanzania, so more people can know the truth," says Mwenguo.
Mwenguo provides a snapshot of typical Tanzania visitors from the U.S., who are mostly at the medium- to high-income level. The majority are baby boomers and mature travelers. The average length of stay is more than 10 days and they usually combine Tanzania with one other African country, usually Kenya or Zambia. Most travel in small groups of six to 12 people.
"In my opinion, Tanzania is the safest country in Africa—it's a very secure destination," says Mwenguo. Since its independence in 1961, Tanzania has enjoyed peace and stability in a democratic environment.
Into the Wild
"Surprisingly, we see a lot of business from the west coast of the United States," says Mwenguo. "I think it's a question of the west coast having significant disposable income that they're willing to spend on travel." Mwenguo also notes that New York and Boston are strong markets for the destination. The coastal markets account for those travelers intent on photographic safaris, while the heartland, especially Texas, makes up the majority of hunting safaris. "Photographic safaris are definitely the more popular of the two —they're the growing trend," says Mwenguo.
The Tanzania Tourist Board will be targeting the adventure market, which includes walking safaris, mountain trekking and hot-air ballooning in the Serengeti. "Walking safaris are actually very safe," says Mwenguo. "Participants are accompanied by experienced game rangers who are armed." Visitors have the option of multi-day walking safaris that include camping out, or partial day hikes where they are transported by vehicle to meet up with the rangers at a specified spot in the bush.
Although the west coast of Africa is most strongly identified with the slave trade, the practice was also carried out from ports along Tanzania's coast, including Zanzibar. "These tours are popular with African Americans, but a significant number of non-African Americans from the U.S. are joining these programs," says Mwenguo. "These cultural programs are usually combined with a safari experience."
Massachusetts-based Thomson Safaris (www.thomsonsafaris.com) is a pioneer in Tanzania tourism, having a 27-year history of operating in the country. "When we first started, the border between Tanzania and Kenya was closed," says Judi Wineland, director, Thomson Safaris. "Tanzania had an almost non-existent tourism infrastructure —what it did have was its wildlife and friendly people." Thomson Safaris was the only U.S.-based operator selling Tanzania at the time. "You couldn't get salt and pepper, but you could take a long-range fuel tank vehicle to Ngorongoro Crater and camp among the wildebeest," says Wineland.
Wineland notes that the country's tourism product has developed over the years. "It's on the level of Kenya and South Africa, but it's sparser," she says. "If your main concern is where you're going to lay your head, you can go anywhere. If you're looking for the greatest amount and diversity of wildlife, then Tanzania is the place."
Tourism to Tanzania has increased 12 percent over 2006. Tourism is one of the key economic drivers in the Tanzania economy, second only to agriculture. In figures from 2006, tourism made up 17.2 percent of the country's GNP.
Last month, Tauck World Discovery (www.tauck.com) was presented with the Tanzania Tourist Board's 2007 Tour Operator Product Development Award. "We expanded to Africa in 2000 and began offering our first Tanzania programs in 2001," says Robin Tauck, president, Tauck World Discovery. "At first, we offered Tanzania in combination with Kenya. We were one of the first to separate Tanzania on its own, in 2004. It's since become our top-selling African destination."
That growth was fueled in part by the introduction last year of a new Tauck Bridges family safari program in Tanzania, "Tanzania: A Grand Family Safari" (11 days, from $5,815). In 2007, sales of the Bridges Tanzania safari saw a 200 percent increase over 2006.
"Today's traveler wants an in-depth experience in a single country, they want the safety and security of a pristine destination and they want to get away from cell phones and the Internet and connect with nature," says Tauck. "Tanzania will continue to be a hot destination."
Tauck World Discovery now offers three separate Tanzania programs, which book an average of 15,000 room nights a year. In some cases, demand is outrunning the availability of exclusive lodges. "When you bring this level of high-end visitors, you have to look at fresh ways to handle the demand," says Tauck.
Invitation to Agents
Tanzania will host a gathering of tourism leaders for the 33rd annual congress of Africa Travel Association in the city of Arusha May 19-23, 2008. The five-day gathering will address topics such as new tourism growth markets, Asia outbound travel, and social responsibility and the travel industry. It will also include roundtables for ministers and suppliers and tour operators, networking events, a marketplace expo, host country days, gala dinners, and award ceremonies as well as pre- and post-country tours.
Tanzania will also host The Leon H. Sullivan Summit VIII, June 2-6, 2008, also to be held in Arusha. In coordination with the summit, Tanzania will offer direct charter flights out of Atlanta and Washington, D.C. "These will most likely be on Delta," says Mwenguo. "We wish to keep these charter flights as a regular option."
The Tanzania Tourist Board is encouraging travel agents to attend both events and to take advantage of pre- and post-country tours. "In addition to these events, we'll also be organizing fam trips for agents," says Mwenguo. "These typically fall January through March and the month of June." Interested agents should contact the Tanzania Tourist Board in New York. The point person is Karen Bradford; she can be reached at 212-447-0027, [email protected].