Travel agents gathering needs southern circuit outreach gaze

The Guardian
Published at 08:57 AM Mar 26 2024
Tourists enjoying the good sceneries of Ngorongoro National Park.
Photo: Courtesy of Ngorongoro National Park
Tourists enjoying the good sceneries of Ngorongoro National Park.

MORE than 100 travel agents from various parts of southern Europe and elsewhere are expected to arrive in Tanzania’s tourism capital, Arusha, in May.

They will be chiefly out to explore the country’s tourism landscape as part of an inaugural Tourism Summit 2024.

A local travel group, African Queen Adventures, is co-hosting the summit in tandem with TravelShop Turkey, an ally of the International Ecotourism Society.

What has particularly struck some local observers is that the gaze summit participants are likely to cast won’t extend beyond some signature attractions like the wildlife scenes of the Serengeti and the shores of Zanzibar.

Sampling various spots of the cultural ecosystem comes a distant third in the list of objectives enunciated by the local organisers and reciprocated by the co-hosts.

The northern circuit can evidently do with a lot of enhanced exposure especially to the rising tourist markets of southern and Eastern Europe, not to speak of western and south Asia, seemingly targeted in the summit endeavour.

As scores of exhibitions have shown, what Tanzania has to offer and especially in the northern circuit is largely unparalleled, placed second only to picturesque Brazil with its vast scenery treasure of the Amazon forest.

Part of the reason for this has to do with the organising effort itself, as it arises less from the tourism authorities than from some local and foreign stakeholders seeking to build synergies in that field.

That is adequate from a business point of view as the local organisers mainly organise travel to northern circuit destinations while a groan is heard once in a while as to widening visitations to the southern circuit.

A major problem is that local tourism marketing capacity is largely exhausted in northern circuit activity, while the southern circuit needs more specialised travellers like hunters and campers, not the usual sightseers.

There was a conference session online where nearly 400 tourism companies from about 100 countries participated in a Zoom meeting organised in late February by the organisers to promote the International Africa Tourism Summit.

There was a note of appreciation for the Turkish travel firm for helping to bring the conference to Africa, and to Tanzania in particular.

Noticeable mention was made of the epic ‘Tanzania: The Royal Tour’ documentary, whose use at the commercial and marketing levels has arguably reached its climax. It is time for new ideas.

For one thing, the organisers realise that Destination Tanzania is a relatively unexplored destination in Africa, a major reason for its potential being showcased gradually to tourism professionals worldwide.

Yet it is hard to say why this remains the case, except that those in charge of the various tourism sites are the same people.

How far stakeholders at the summit will have ideas about the hinterland of Tanzania tourism is one thing, while what indeed the tourism authorities expect is another.

Yet it isn’t difficult to figure out that the tourism authorities are largely satisfied with what they have, which would not be the case if those protected areas were placed in private hands through a share sale.

It would not by privatising Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) and other agencies wholly but by offloading individual attractions to bidders. As there are unique features in each of those attractions, they will be in good market.