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Wide Open for Women in Tourism in Tanzania

by Karen Hoffman

It should come as no surprise to anybody who has been in the dynamic presence of the Honorable Mme. Zakia Hamdani Meghji, MP, Tanzania's Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism since 1987, that the door is wide open with opportunities for women to excel as professionals in the country's rapidly growing travel industry, starting right from the top. The private sector, recently paid tribute to Hon. Meghji (below) for her strong leadership and contribution to the tremendous increase in tourism since she became Minister, and honored her by affectionately naming her "Mama Utalii" (Mother Tourism). Leading the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) as Chairperson, is another lady Hon. Fatma Saidi Alli (MP), who has two women TTB member colleagues Ms. Vicky Swai and Ms. Scholastica Ponera. At the heart of TTB headquarters, Judith Gumbo, Senior Administrative Seccretary to the Managing Director since 1993, brings to her position extensive field experience from various national parks around the country. Accomplished women can be found in all sectors of the industry, public and private: Ms. Maria Mmari, Senior Tourist Officer, MNRT, Ms. Mary Lwoga, Branch Manager, TTB Arusha; Ms. Severa Masawe, Legal Counsel, TTB; Ms. Saada Juma, British Airways Manager, Tanzania - to name but only a few.

Fatema Tapya,
Marketing Manager, Coastal Travel Services. Coastal Travel Services
Coastal Aviation, based in Dar es Salaam, is truly a company on the cutting edge of Tanzania Tourism. It has expanded from a travel service providing charter and schedule air carrier to the Southern Circuit and Zanzibar to an airline that "connects all the dots" by providing service to all of Tanzania's National parks, in addition to coastal and inland destinations. At the heart and pulse of this dynamic company is the Marketing Manager Fatema Tapya. Originally from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Fatema has been with Coastal for five years. "I have always been fascinated with nature and travel, and joining Coastal gave me the head start to make a career in tourism. Although equipped with IATA accreditation, Fatema says that most of her experience came through on the job training.

"We create our own safaris, and this requires hands-on practical experience," said Fatema. Initially she started out as a tour consultant, but now Fatema can be found arranging special interest safaris, sending out press releases, going on safaris to Ýsee new products and facilities, or at travel trade exhibitions in Europe demonstrating Coastal's new state-of-the art on-line reservation system to travel agents. What does Fatema find the most challenging part of her job? Understanding the particular requirement of tourists from different parts of the world and cultures and how to design a safari that will match these needs. Her personal challenge, as a woman, is to adapt her own role coming from a more traditional culture, while at the same time slip into the more public role of taking care of tourists. Fatema's personal warmth and professionalism seem to guide her through this challenge very successfully.


Shabnaam Saleem

Hotel General Manager

As I checked in to the Mtoni Marine Center Hotel in Zanzibar, this lovely young lady, elegantly dressed, extended a warm welcome. She was working at the Front Desk. She proceeded to offer me assistance in making phone calls to set up interviews and appointments and offered to give me a tour of the beach front property. I had no idea that Shabnaam Saleem, this modest, soft spoken, 25- year-old, was the Hotelís General Manager. Shabnaam, born on mainland Tanzania, received her degree from Kenyaís well known Utalii (Tourism) College. She received hotel management experience as an intern with Serena Lodges and Hotels, one of East Africaís well known luxury chains. If it was just the fact that she was a woman, or only 25, it would be enough of a challenge to command the respect of her hotel staff. But working in the environment of a very traditional Zanzibari Culture, Shabnaam said she had to learn how to be a good manager within the context of society expectations by showing respect for local customs. As she donned her Buibui, the traditional black cape and head covering, to escort me to the airport, Shabnaam, a gracious, yet determined young lady, slipped gracefully between her role as Hotel General Manager to her accepted role as a woman in Swahili Society. Currently Shabnaam has taken leave from Mtoni Marine Center to pursue further studies in Hotel Management.

Veronica Ufunguo

Tourism Officer, Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority

In 1996, Veronica Ufunguo, at 22, was one of only two female tour guides in the Ngorongoro Crater. Born in the Crater region, with a father that worked for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), Veronica was always fascinated with tourism and the benefits that it brought to the local people. However, she also understood early on the conflicts that arise when balancing tourism promotion with environmental and cultural preservation. She started as a Cadet with NCAA. Finally, she was selected for the coveted job of tour guide in the Crater. The three-month training was spent learning the Crater routes, about the animals and the flora and fauna. As Veronica looks back on her guide experience she said "the most rewarding part was being able to take people to see the animals close up and share their excitement with them." However, she admitted the challenges were learning how to work with tourists, and explain about some of the rules and regulations that were necessary to enforce in order to protect the environment, such as not being able to get

environment, such as not being able to get out of the vehicles or dash after an animal off the official crater routes. Her guide work at NCAA inspired Veronica to study tourism at Makarere University in Uganda where she received her Bachelor in Tourism, majoring in marketing, ecotourism and cultural tourism. Upon graduation she did an internship at Kilimanjaro National Park where she helped gather visitor statistics.

Now back at NCAA, Veronica is focusing on improving the quality and standards of the Visitors Center. "My vision is to help create a Visitors Center that is technologically up-to-date and inter-active. The facilities would have information that will appeal to all ages, as well as be accessible for tourists with disablilities. Most important, the guides at the center would be trained and knowledgeable about the history of Ngorongoro Conservation Area." She would also like to introduce guest surveys on site at the hotels and lodges around the Crater. It is hard for tourists who meet Veronica, not to be captivated by her enthusiasm and love for the Ngorongoro Crater area.