Tanzania is not ready to join the East Africa Community (EAC) joint tourism market, it has been learnt.
Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) Managing Director, Devota Mdachi, told The Citizen in an exclusive interview that the country’s priority was not joint marketing of East Africa as a single tourist destination, but unlocking potential that would increase the number of domestic and foreign tourists.
The joint tourism drive is hinged on the EAC single tourist visa launched in February 2014 in Nairobi as an initiative of the presidents of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda under the so-called “Coalition of the Willing”.
The three countries, which had decided to move forward with the integration process as others caught up, also launched the single customs territory and northern infrastructure development corridor.
The visa is meant to allow foreign tourists to visit the three East African countries using one multiple-entry permit. Tanzania and Burundi, which were not part of the coalition, said they would join in when they were ready.
“We don’t oppose the aim of turning the region into a single tourist destination, but our priority is to build our capacity and enable us to fully exploit the potential existing in our country. Tanzania is endowed with enormous tourism potential, which has yet to be fully exploited. We lead in East Africa in terms of tourism resources,” Mdachi said.
She added that under the five-year tourism development plan, Tanzanian aims to increase annual tourist arrivals to 3 million from the current 1 million.
However, this was not without its challenges.
“We face the chronic problem of low budget for tourism promotion. We have to raise more funds for marketing our tourist attractions first before thinking about joining the regional market. We have a very low budget compared to Kenya,” Mdachi said.
In October, the acting Director of Trade and Investment in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr. Bernard Haule, was quoted saying no agreement had been reached on a single tourist visa, adding that member states were still discussing the issue.
TTB chairman Thomas Mihayo supported efforts to promote tourism in Tanzania and make the country among the leading destinations in Africa in the league of Morocco, which draws 12 million tourists annually.
He said TTB had entered into agreements with Morocco and Dubai on tourism promotion through training local experts.