What's New in Tanzania?

Several representatives of the Tanzania Tourist Board came by Travel Agent’s New York offices recently to share the latest updates from the country’s travel and tourism scene.

While acknowledging the competition for travelers in East Africa is “fierce,” the Hon. Amb. Khamis Kagasheki, Tanzania’s minister of natural resources and tourism, said that Tanzania, as a brand, is taking steps to increase its appeal. Airports and airstrips in the country’s north will soon undergo expansion to accommodate larger planes, making it easier for more people to access the region. Currently, many planes accessing rural areas can only carry 12 people. When the expansions are complete, planes carrying up to 70 passengers will be able to land in some of the country’s more remote regions, making it easier to access the lodges and camps in the wilderness.

New improvements at airports and airstrips—like Wi-Fi and mobile phone signals out in the plains of the Serengeti—will make people feel more comfortable. In Dar Es Salaam, the airport’s third terminal is being expanded, and new flights are planned via Qatar Airways to Mt. Kilimanjaro Airport. “People can bypass Dar Es Salaam or Nairobi to get there,” Kagasheki noted, adding that discussions are underway with Emirates to bring the airline to the country’s airports. Likewise, the immigration process has been improved so that visitors’ first point of contact when arriving in the country is a more pleasant one.

As a wildlife destination, says Dr. Aloyce Nzuki, managing director of the Tanzania Tourism Board, Tanzania has a solid range of attractions that represent much of Africa, including the Big Five (lions, cape buffalo, rhinos, leopards and elephants) and various primates that one would also see in Rwanda and Uganda. A full 30 percent of the landmass is protected by the government, so that (barring poachers or other illegal activity) visitors can appreciate unspoiled nature.

And while many other countries in Africa have had to struggle with varying degrees of civil unrest, Nzuki notes that Tanzania has enjoyed stability—in fact, the country has welcomed refugees from other nations when citizens felt unsafe.

Kagasheki said that other developments will include beach improvements along the country’s coast and scuba facilities—but that both would require “serious investors” with confidence in the country’s ability to attract tourists interested in water-based excursions. All the advertising in the world won’t help if the infrastructure—and brands—aren’t there to provide the quality that visitors expect, Kagasheki added.

Among those brands are recent investments from Four Seasons, taking over the former Bilila Lodge Kempinski and adding two more properties. A Regency Hyatt recently opened, and another luxury hotel will be added to the country’s Southern Circuit as well.