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Dar blames Nairobi for fewer tourists

The central place Nairobi occupies in the region is set to be enhanced with the airport expansion and a unitary visa for Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, possibly making Tanzania even more estranged.

Arthur Mahasi, a tourism and wildlife consultant says there has already been a feeling by Tanzania that Kenya, being the largest economy around, is getting undue advantage in the East African Community (EAC) bloc compared to the other members, especially in tourism.

“There are misgivings that though Tanzania has a rich northern tourism circuit, all tourists going to the country have to land in Nairobi first before proceeding to Tanzania to view various attractions. Most tour operators are also based in Nairobi,” says Mr Mahasi.

Tanzanians also feel that tourists spend most of their money in Nairobi before they go to their country and this disadvantages them.

“President Nyerere was misadvised to construct Kilimanjaro International Airport, about seven kilometres from Arusha on the Arusha-Moshi road, so that chartered planes would land there directly,” added Mr Mahasi.

Although Tanzania has rich tourist attraction sites like Mt Meru, Gurunduto Crater, Arusha National Park, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti, the airport lacked other important amenities such as hotels, transport and freight agencies.

Tourists landing at the airport had to source transport and accommodation from Arusha.

As a result, tourists continued to land in Nairobi.

To curb this, the Tanzanian government banned all Kenya-based tour operators from sending vehicles into the country with tourists.

Martin Mwangi says the Tanzanian government officials never want to see Kenyan tour operators.

“From the time I started this business, it has been impossible to get past the border. We are instructed to drop all tourists at the Namanga border post so that they can be picked by Tanzanian tour operators,” says Mr Mwangi.

Mr Mahasi holds the opinion that the Kilimanjaro International Airport failed because it was not economically viable.

“All major airlines found it difficult to drop passengers in Nairobi, take off and land again at the airport, after hardly half an hour. By aviation economics, that was not possible,” he says.

He believes Tanzania needs to cooperate with other EAC member states to have a single visa and do away with restriction of vehicles from neighbouring countries.

“This will open up Tanzania for more visitors. It will also be cheaper and convenient to tourists and Tanzania will gain from the large numbers,” says Mr Mahasi.