What the Obama visit will mean to Tanzanian tourism
Lioness rests with its cub at Tanzania's Serengeti National Park. Noor Khamis / Reuters
Obama’s visit to West Africa in his first term helped draw attention to the diversity of experiences in destinations like Ghana, and if he doesn’t get sidetracked by political arguments the same could happen in Tanzania and other parts of southeast Africa.
With excitement and expectations to see a tourism boom in Africa, tourist stakeholders are looking at the official tour of the continent by US President Barack Obama as a kick-start to tap the rich American tourist market through publicity of his visit.
Once regarded as the continent “doomed with diseases, wars, and poverty” by most Americans, Africa is now a target continent for US residents in terms of investment and holidays, according to sources from the US Department of Commerce. Rich with wildlife, natural tourist attractions, diversified cultures, and favorable weather conditions for human health, Africa is growing to be the number one US investment destination, taking advantages of rich resources including big reserves of minerals, natural gas, and oil in trillions of cubic meters, wildlife, just to mention a few.
Tanzania is among three African nations in Mr. Obama’s week-long tour of this continent. Tanzanian Tourism Minister Mr. Khamis Kagasheki said the tour of the US President will attract more Americans to know this country through global media splash. Mr. Obama will be accompanied by a delegation comprising between 500 to 700 US business personalities and who will be booked in various hotels available in places he will be visiting. America is a number one tourist source market which Tanzania is currently targeting.
According to the Tanzania Tourist Board, the official tourist marketing, promotion, and publicity institution, American tourists and holiday makers rank second after Britons. About 60,000 American tourists visit Tanzania every year, against 65,000 Briton tourists visiting various tourist attractions available in this African safari destination. Mr. Kagasheki said the number of tourists who visited Tanzania last year rose to over the one million mark, 24 percent upward from 867,994 against the previous year.
The increase was a result of an increased number of accommodation facilities as well as better infrastructure made up of roads and airways to get the tourists to their destinations, Tanzanian officials say. By March this year, up to 750,797 tourists visited national parks, bringing in more than 65.7 million US dollars. Americans are counted to be the high-quality and high-spending tourists visiting Tanzania, including trophy hunters counted to be over 4,000 per year. Trophy hunting in Tanzania has been attracting rich US tycoons mostly from Texas and who are ranked among the highest-spending holidaymakers visiting this country.
Mount Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro Crater, and Serengeti National Park are the leading tourist sites attracting most photographic tourists, while Selous Game Reserve with a total area of 55,000 square kilometers is the leading paradise for trophy hunters. Mr. Kagasheki said his ministry was thinking of coming up with a slogan: “Obama has visited Tanzania, when are you?” which could be propagated later to, “Three American Presidents have already toured Tanzania, what about you?”
But, big tourist hotels in Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam are expecting to reap big sums from Obama’s entourage. During the visit of George Bush in this country way back in 2008, all big hotels were expensively fully booked by Americans while tourists from other nationalities were diverted to small hotels and guest houses. Tourism authorities and businesses from Dar es Salaam and the northern Tanzania’s tourist city of Arusha have been striving to attract Obama’s entourage and take its advantage in gaining more profits and mileage in the global tourism industry.
Tanzania, the largest country in East Africa, is focused on wildlife conservation and sustainable tourism, with approximately 28 percent of the land protected by the government for wildlife and nature conservation. Tanzania’s tourism is mostly made by 16 national parks and 32 game reserves, the legendary Mt. Kilimanjaro, the famous Serengeti wildlife park, Ngorongoro Crater, the Olduvai Gorge where the skull of the earliest man was discovered, Selous Game Reserve, and Ruaha National Park, now the largest national park in Africa and Zanzibar.
Over 200 African descendants in the United States Diaspora gathered in Tanzania three years ago in a mission to explore the ancestral origins of their great grandparents during the African Diaspora Heritage Trail Conference. With a theme, “An African Homecoming: Exploring the Origins of the African Diaspora and Transforming Cultural Heritage Assets into Tourism Destinations,” the conference participants discussed and broadened their knowledge on Africa that would help them to protect African Diaspora traditions and legacy found in communities they originated.
Most delegates were from the United States of America; Latin America; and the Caribbean islands of Bermuda, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica, Martinique, and St. Lucia. The conference helped to preserve the global presence and cultural influence of people of African descent and contribute this knowledge to the world stage of history, culture, and contemporary affairs, organizers once said. The conference attracted educational, governmental, and tourism professionals. It brought to Tanzania and Africa, prominent African-Americans and celebrities to trace their origin.
Obama’s roots which are in Kenya had so far added more excitement among Africans to see the first African-American President of the United States. Other than the African Diaspora Heritage Trail Conference, several tourist and investment gatherings took place in Tanzania during the past 10 years, all organized in the United States. These were the Third African International Institute for Peace Through Tourism (IIPT) held in Dar es Salaam in 2003 Dar es Salaam, the 33rd Africa Travel Association (ATA) Conference held in Arusha in 2008, and the Eighth Leon H. Sullivan Conference and the First Travelers Philanthropy Conference held in Arusha the same year (2008), all organized in the United States.
In 1997, the current US Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, visited Tanzania for the first time to become the first American First Lady to visit this country, accompanied by her daughter Chelsea. Looking at the African continent as a whole, Obama’s visit to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania had so far attracted many Africans with great expectations to see this continent be more exposed in America. Compared to Europe, Asia, and now China, Africa remained on the dark side of the American people. The tour of President Obama in Africa, the countries he will visit are expecting to see an increase in publicity that would create a great opportunity to the tourism industry.
Africa will be the home of the largest workforce in the world within 50 years. In the short term, rapid urbanization is contributing to a growing demand for consumer goods and fueling a dire need for infrastructure and other development, said the US Senate Chair for Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, Senator Chris Coons. “As American companies increase investments in Africa, they will improve their access to these dynamic markets, resulting not only in attractive rates of return on investments, but also in growth for the U.S. economy that will lead to job creation,” Senator Coons said in March this year. “The Department of Commerce can and should serve as an important force multiplier for American companies abroad.
Yet, the reduced footprint of the Foreign Commercial Service in Africa translates into missed opportunities for American businesses. We must do more to ensure the presence of the Commercial Service is aligned with current market demands and future business opportunities on the continent,” he said in his recently-published report. America is home to a large and vibrant African Diaspora population – a group with personal, familial, cultural, and business ties to their home countries. Engaging the African Diaspora community in the United States will strengthen economic ties and promote trade and development.
The United States possesses a valuable resource in its vibrant African Diaspora communities. These individuals, communities, and businesses offer a bridge to the African continent that should be leveraged to its full potential to develop economic opportunities, Senator Coons added. The Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs convened to explore the economic potential of sub-Saharan Africa and identify concrete, substantive steps forward to increase U.S.-Africa investment and trade and which provided a roadmap for developing a more cohesive, effective strategy for US economic engagement with Africa in both the public and private sectors.
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