"The western media needs to focus more on success stories in Africa.
We are doing so many good things out here which do not get enough publicity."
H. E. President Kikwete, Tanzania  

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The World's Safari Capital, Arusha, Tanzania, has undergone an amazing transformation since the city hosted the ATA 23rd ATA Congress in 1998. Some writers call Arusha the "Geneva of Africa," thanks to its record of success in attracting international events. To get a complete handle on this magical change of fortune, our editorial team spent an extra 3 weeks, getting to know the community by participating in several Rotary functions, the Miss Arusha Contest, Leon H. Sullivan Summit and East Africa's Karibu Fair. We expect to return this winter for the Travelers Philanthropy Conference.

ATA Shines in Tanzania

The Africa Travel Association's 33rd International Congress was a resoundinging success, for which we congratulate the Tanzania Tourist Board, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, plus an enthusiastic group of volunteers. Who attended? Over 300 tourism industry experts including tourism ministers and boards, hotel and airline executives, travel agents, tour operators, international and local business. They came from Angola, Belgium, Benin, Bermuda, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malta, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, the USA, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Outside the Arusha International Conference Centre, we visited one of the best ATA Trade Shows in our 14 years with the Association. The African fashions and fabrics were outstanding and Africa's active tourism industry was well represented. We returned to the trade show often to purchascrafts, clothing and wearable art.

Africa's Competitive Edge

Inside the spacious conference centre a varied program kept the delegates in their seats, with topics such as "A Decade of Progress: Showcasing Tanzania," "Africa's Competitive Edge." "Tourism as an Investment Tool," "Packaging Africa," "Africa's Accommodations," and much more. Marking the importance of this event on the national scene, proceedings were opened by Tanzania's President H.E. Jakaya Kikwete, and closed by Zanzibar President Hon. Amani Abeid Karume.Land of Many ContrastsPresident Kikwete called Tanzania a land of many contrasts, pride of African heritage, rich and diverse natural and cultural resources. He stated that close to 25 percent of the land has been set aside for conservation of wildlife and forests.

This vast area includes the Serengeti National Park, where the annual migration of wildebeest draws visitors from near and far. Picturesque Mt Kilimanjaro, the Roof of Africa, is the only permanently snow capped peak in the tropics and is the highest mountain on the continent. On Arusha's doorstep is the Ngorongoro Crater, world's largest intact caldera forming a natural enclosure for a wide variety of wildlife. With the Olduvai Gorge, and the 3.6 million year-old-human foot prints at Laetoli, all adjacent to it, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is indeed the Cradle of Mankind and the crater is the Eighth Wonder of the World.

President Kikwete mentioned the spice island of Zanzibar, the ultimate paradise in the Indian Ocean, with clear waters, unspoiled beaches, and historical heritage. Throughout Tanzania, there are game reserves, archaeological, historical and cultural sites, plus unexplored pristine southern an western parks, each offering an uncompromising and unique experience."

Jobs Through Tourism

President Kikwete said that tourism has provided more than 250,000 jobs, and according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the need for more employment in the area is so huge that out of 4325 jobs the ministry advertised only 225 had been filled. He said, "The number and size of protected areas have expanded, and their ecological values are still intact. Tourism and tourism related investments are also growing steadily and the opportunity for further growth is still available. These improvements have been made possible by our sound political and economic policies as well as programs and plans that are specifically tailored to engender fundamental transformation and modernization of the tourism sector in Tanzania through harnessing existing potentials sustainably,"

New ATA President

Among the many high profile persons was Hon. Shamsa Selengia Mwangunga, Tanzania's Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism and ATA President. The Minister referred to Arusha as "gateway to the world's finest wildlife areas." To expand on this statement, she said, "Trends indicate that tourists are searching for destinations with unspoiled natural tourist attractions, rich cultures and adventures. These trends, coupled with the friendly and warm hospitality make Africa the most ideal destination for this millennium. This year's theme of Bringing the World to Africa and Africa to the World has come at the right time. During your stay in Arusha you will have an opportunity to visit some of our spectacular tourist attractions, including the visit to Ngorongoro Crater. When you arrive back home you will be our good ambassadors to your countries."

Partners in Tourism

ATA Executive Director Edward J. Bergman emphasized the close ties between the ATA and Tanzania - a partnership that has gained momentum since the Association's first visit in 1998. Bergman paid tribute to the tremendous effort by Tanzanians, stating that travel and tourism to Tanzania is booming. He noted that in recent years, Africa has become the leading region in terms of growth in international tourist arrivals, averaging seven percent growth annually since 2000. He expects Africa's position to continue in the same direction due to improving infrastructures, advances in technology and communications, a growing private sector, more direct long-haul flights, and an expanding choice of tour and travel experiences..

"Bringing the World to Africa and Africa to the World"

Those of us who were at the Arusha International Conference Centre in May, 1998, when Tanzania hosted its first Africa Travel Association World Congress, were in for a pleasant surprise. In one decade, Arusha has grown from a quiet village to a vibrant, booming city with a growing list of amenities. At the same time, Tanzania's Tourism sector has forged ahead by leaps and bounds, setting an example for all of Africa - and earning a favorable spot at the top of the economic ladder - as the country's number one employer and money earner. Revenue from tourism is expected to top one billion dollars (U.S.) by year end, replacing agriculture as Tanzania's leading economic contributor.

What's equally astounding is the fact that the United States has gained international recognition as the leading single source of tourism trade to this fascinating country.

Icing on the cake

During two gala evenings, delegates enjoyed fashion shows by Arusha designer Hilu Bara (above right) and Chief Margaret Bola Fabiyi of Nigeria. Host Country Day included a visit to Ngorongoro Crater, while the Media Post Tour featured a visit to Arusha National Park. Both attractions are an easy drive from Arusha, an important reason for its popularity as Safari Capital. Hats off to Wayne Keefer and the East African All Suites Hotel staff, who made us feel so completely at home for over three weeks. With such a spectacular setting, framed by a mountain backdrop, little wonder Tanzania was selected to host the ATA 33rd Annual Interenational Congress. The event was a world-class affair with delegates and guests from over 40 countries participating in a wide range of activities. For 2009 ATA Congress dates, location and program visit: www.africatravelassociation.org

Photos by Muguette Goufrani, Dean Mac Kasasa and Nick Gosling.

LINKS: Tanzania Section Page . Zanzibar . ATA 33rd Congress . Leon Sullivan Summit . News Briefs Photos 1-10 Sports Tourism