Tourism Leaps Ahead: Tourism Is Growing at an Unprecedented Pace as More Sites and Attractions Are Being Opened Up. Herald Tagama Describes the Efforts Being Made to Expand and Deepen the Area. (Tanzania)

Article excerpt

Tourism is Tanzania's fastest growing economic sector. Although it accounts for less than 10% of the country's $8bn Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it is growing at a terrific pace. Mining once the leading sector, has now slipped and accounts for just 3.2% of GDP. Hopes of recovery in this sector are slight - the UN Economic Commission reported that investment in the mining sector 'seems to be saturated'.

The number of tourist arrivals in Tanzania has risen in the last five years from 359,096 in 1997 to 525,122 in 2001, up 4.6% up on the previous year's figures. - and earned the country $739m. In 1997, the country generated $270m; in 1998 $425.9m and in 1999 $674.3m.

Although last year's figures were good, Tourism and Natural Resources Minister Zakia Meghji says: "Earnings could have been higher had it not been for the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US that sent shock waves throughout the world".

The number of tourist hotels has increased by more than 50% over the same five year period - from 213 in 1997 to 329 in 2001. And while the number of hotel beds has risen, so has occupancy, from 56.3% in 1997 to nearly 60% last year.

Early this year, two new tourist hotels, the Holiday Inn and Golden Tulip, were opened in Tanzania's commercial capital Dar es Salaam. These are just two of some 40 tourist projects approved by the Tanzania Investment Authority in 2001.

Although Tanzania targets high-spending tourists, unlike its neighbour Kenya which focuses more on mass tourism, the steep rise in tourist numbers has increased the pressure on services and the environment.

For decades, Tanzania's tourism was concentrated on the northern circuit where Africa's highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, and a number of wildlife havens are located. Now Tanzania is broadening its scope. In addition to the six kilometre high mountain, the northern circuit also encompasses the beautiful situated town of Arusha, the spectacular Rift Valley and the Tarangire and Lake Manyara national parks.

Perhaps the star of the northern circuit is the extraordinary Ngorongoro Crater, the starting point for one of the most astounding animal migrations in the world. The conservation area around the Grater is also the site of the Olduvai Gorge, termed the cradle of mankind and declared a world heritage site in 1978. The 14,763sq km Serengeti National Park, in the north west of Tanzania is home to an estimated three million animals.

Now the country is adding to these attractions by opening up tourism opportunities along the Indian Ocean shoreline - in particular the pristine southern coastal stretch. …