Stakeholders Lack Confidence in Tanzanian Tourism Minister
“The meeting with our Minister was a shambles,” ranted a regular Arushabased stakeholder before adding “He got no grip on the industry, he does not understand tourism and his insistence earlier in [ 2016] that tourism must be subjected to VAT shows that he is against the industry he is supposed to represent in government.”
“He is another in a long line of failures which shows government does not appreciate the sector at all. One of the few over the past years of substance was Kagesheki but most others were just posturing peacocks” – leaving out some of the most unprintable comments made on the subject.
Prof. Jumanne Abdallah Maghembe, the current Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism for the United Republic of Tanzania, met industry representatives over government demands of a $2,000 licence fee, irrespective of the size of the company in question, and for some time banned the entrance of tour vehicles into the parks, unless the drivers carried copies of the licences with them. This led to widespread protests from a large number of small safari operators, almost all owned by Tanzanians, who tried to carve out a niche in the market for themselves by going independent. Participants in the meeting then reported that the minister had to make a humiliating climbdown and suspend the measure, allowing tour vehicles into the parks for the time being, while a more moderate and measured solution was sought.
At the same meeting, the government also came under fire for not doing enough to promote and market the country, again leading to some feeble excuses by the minister, who failed once more to embrace the private sector’s challenges and problems and – like with his stand on VAT – only served to further estrange himself from the sector.
The minister reportedly left red-faced after a barrage of discontent by meeting participants with TATO (Tanzania Association of Tour Operators) representatives mincing no words how detrimental the government’s measures were for the entire industry.
Said another regular source in a volunteered statement, given on condition of anonymity for obvious reasons – considering the current crackdown on any form of dissent: “The sooner they recognise that a good working relationship between government and the private sector is absolutely essential, the better. This minister has failed us, full stop. We feel like we are all treated like tax evaders and cheats until proven innocent and that is not climate under which the sector can prosper. Maghembe should be the first to make way for a better-suited person because tourism deserves the best, not a recycled politician who has done nothing else but offend us”.
Harsh words no doubt, but by the look of it, quite understandable. Editor’s Note: In 2016, Maghembe faced international controversy after allowing a company back into Tanzania that he knew had committed dozens of wildlife crimes. The company – Green Mile Safari from the United Arab Emirates – had been kicked out of Tanzania after their own promotional video showed animal torture and repeated violations of Tanzania law. Maghembe’s decision to let the company back in was widely assumed in news reports to be based on his acceptance of a bribe from Green Mile. Perhaps it’s time for President John Magufuli to move Maghembe back to his old post as Minister of Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives where his degree in Forestry would be more appropriate.