Tourism investors in Zanzibar are up in arms over a reported memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Tanzania and Seychelles to promote each country’s tourism attractions. They claim that this would drive tourists from the island and, through the Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors (Zati), they now plan to table an official protest to the government. This would call for the rescinding of the MoU that was approved through the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB).

Yesterday The Citizen learnt that the brewing controversy will be subject to high level discussions at two different meetings. One is by the Tourism Confederation of Tanzania (TCT) scheduled for today in Dar es Salaam while the other will be held next Tuesday by the TTB.
Newly-elected Zati chairman Abdulsanad Said and TTB managing director Aloyce Nzuki both separately confirmed the said meetings. “Yes, we will be raising this matter because it is serious as far as marketing Zanzibar as a destination is concerned,” said Mr Said in a telephone interview.

According to Zati, TTB overlooked Zanzibar’s fundamental interests in entering a two-way marketing deal with Seychelles that, if not rescinded, would hurt local investors’ efforts to attract tourists to the Isle’s beaches against the premium offered by competing beaches in Seychelles.

“We consider the MoU as ill-conceived and detrimental to both Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar beach tourism and every effort is to be made to undo this agreement,” says a position paper drawn by Zati and seen by The Citizen.

The stiff opposition by Zanzibar arises from the argument that Seychelles wanted to ride on Tanzania’s rich wildlife advantage to sell its beaches to tourists looking for a combined beach-bush package. This, Zati claimed, will be at the expense of Zanzibar’s own strongest selling point.
The MoU, it said, did not involve stakeholders in Zanzibar and they learnt about it through the media. It also said Seychelles was drumming up raising business relations with Tanzania as a driving point.

“If our understanding of the MoU is correct, and we are also looking at the possibility of a mooted airline link-up between Kilimanjaro and Seychelles, then the TTB is effectively announcing to the public and the tourism industry at large that it is advocating the use of Seychelles as an alternative beach product to its own products, which means Zanzibar as well as the mainland tourism product,” the Zati paper says.

Yesterday, Dr Nzuki said he could not discuss the controversy on the phone because “this is a sensitive matter.” He, however, said the TTB was in cordial working relations with its counterpart in Zanzibar. “All the parties will on Tuesday attend a meeting on this matter after which we can be able to issue a statement,” the TTB boss told The Citizen.

Asked why Zanzibar does not see any positive spill over from the deal, Mr Said said Zati members consider such an agreement as self-defeating. “We don’t accept it because it is not politically correct, and how come the government wants to shoot itself on the foot and kill its own brother?
“It is difficult to understand how they bought the idea because Kenya Airways has direct flights to Seychelles and Zanzibar. We have not heard such an MoU between the two foreign countries, yet Tanzania is now granting a direct licence to kill itself.”

Like TTB, Seychelles tourism authorities have mounted aggressive campaigns to sell their destinations, and reached out to Tanzania as part of efforts to tap into the popular game viewing segment.

Last Month the Seychelles Consul in Dar es Salaam, Ms Maryvonne Pool, who is also its tourism ambassador, hosted the Seychelles Week in Tanzania. During the event some contents of the MoU that was agreed upon in June first emerged. The group managing director and CEO of Tanzania’s Precision Air, Mr Alfonso Kioko, who was in attendance revealed the airline will soon launch direct flights to the Seychelles capital, Victoria.
According to Ms Pool, Tanzania and the Seychelles are planning a “twin-centre holiday” approach which would allow tourists to visit a number of destinations within the same trip.

“The Seychelles Tourism Board is planning this synergy with the aim of encouraging potential travellers to enjoy a safari and beach holiday in one package,” the board director for Africa and America, Mr David Germain, said last month.

By The Citizen Reporter, THE CITIZEN, Thursday, 16 December 2010

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