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Hotel Association of Tanzania’s new CEO speaks out

Tanzania may be the world’s second after Brazil in terms of numerous tourist allures, but an unfavourable business environment and huge skills gap are holding back the growth of the tourism sector.

The Hotels Association of Tanzania (HAT) believes that these two key issues need to be addressed, and the $2 billion industry needs to grow, particularly in terms of investment in accommodation facilities.

“Whilst these issues could be seen as complex, long drawn-out measures to address them have negative consequences for the multi-billion-dollar industry,” HAT’s new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ms. Nura-Lisa Karamagi, noted.

In her maiden keynote speech at the Stars-rating Awards Ceremony for Arusha and Manyara regions accommodation facilities, Ms. Karamagi said that the private sector understands that not all factors affecting the business environment can be solved in a day, or even months, but some are possible and achievable.

“One such aspect is due notice in changes in government policies and fees. In a time and price-sensitive sector such as ours, what may seem like a small issue has the potential to cause panic and unreliability,” the HAT CEO told the audience.

In terms of accommodation facilities, she argued that Tanzania still lacks sufficient good quality and value for money facilities for low- and mid-budget travellers.

Indeed, a government data show, Tanzania is facing an acute shortage of over 30,000 hotel beds to accommodate the expansive demand in the hospitality sector.

Only 38,000 hotel beds are currently available against the country demand for 70,000 beds, according to the Acting Tourism Director, Deogratius Mdamu.

“A sound and fair business environment would go a long way in diversifying accommodation facilities both in terms of categories and owners,” Ms. Karamagi explained.

According to her, the country is also facing a huge skills gap in the sector, a move that is seriously crippling the provision of quality service and value for money.

However, it is understood that HAT, together with her members and the partnership of the Ministry through the National College of Tourism, had been working hard to solve this problem through the apprenticeship program.

To a great extent, it has been a success but, Ms. Karamagi said, is unfortunately not close enough to providing the quality skills that the industry, and in particular accommodation facilities, needs.

“The private sector continues to do its best to train as many individuals as possible, but we are in dire need of more investment in both resources and commitment on the part of the Ministry,” the HAT CEO noted.

For instance, she cited that the National College of Tourism under the Ministry with a partnership with private sector has a lot of potential if facilitated and fostered.

Ms. Karamagi said HAT hopes that the Ministry would take a more involved role in aiding the private sector to produce qualified individuals to serve in the industry.

“We may seem to have different interests, but in truth our interests are the same, and only differ in modalities. We need your help as you need ours,” she explained, adding, “If we come to the table transparent about what each side needs and expects, there maybe a few misunderstandings at first, but we are confident we can help each other resolve win-win solutions that will make grow and foster our industry.”

During the 4-hour colorful event graced by the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Prof. Jumanne Maghembe, over 230 accommodation facilities had been awarded various stars.

According to the Permanent Secretary for Natural Resources and Tourism, Rtd. Major General Gaundence Milanzi, only 10 out of 231 have been awarded the five-star rating.

Tourism in Tanzania continues to grow, with more than 1 million guests visiting the country annually, earning the country $2.05 billion, equivalent to nearly 17.6 percent of the GDP.

Additionally, tourism provides 600,000 direct jobs to Tanzanians; over one million people earn an income from tourism, not to mention the value chain of tourism which supports parks, conservation areas, and now community-based wildlife management areas (WMAs) as well as farmers, transporters, fuel stations, spare parts suppliers, builders, tent manufacturers, and suppliers of food and drink.

Standing as the biggest country among the other 4 partner member states of the East African Community (EAC), Tanzania has over the past 22 years, been devoted to developing tourism and is aimed at becoming a number one tourist destination in Africa.

Covering a geographical area of 945,000 kilometers, Tanzania has set out 28 percent of the country’s land for nature and wildlife.

PHOTO: Chief Executive Officer for Hotels Association of Tanzania (HAT), Ms. Nura-Lisa Karamagi

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