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World Tourism Organization Regional Seminar held in Tanzania
Hon. Zakia Hamdani Meghji, MP, Minister of Natural Resources and Toursim of Tanzania hosted World Tourism Organization Regional Seminar on Sustainable Tourism Development and Poverty Alleviation in Arusha, Sept., 2004 . Mr. Solomon Odunga,  the Ministry''s Permanent Secretary gave the opening  speech. Here are a fcew excerpts: The tourism industry is one of the fastest growing sectors and the most important economic force in the world today. Tourism has the ability to generate significant foreign exchange earnings. As the largest business sector in the world economy, tourism employs over 200 million people and accounts for one in every 12 jobs. Given its multiplier effect, if properly planned and managed, the sector has the potential to become a formidable tool for poverty reduction and a stimulant for economic growth.

The tourism industry is more important to the Least Developed Countries in particular, because it is the only sector in which until now these countries have comparative advantages. With the constant fall of prices of traditional products in the world market, our strength greatly hinges on this sector. It is encouraging to note that most African countries have made tourism a priority and committed resources to create conducive environment for its growth. Statistics indicate that in 2002, Africa Region showed an average annual growth rate of 5% in tourism arrivals. According to WTO projections, Africa will witness the sector grow four fold between 1995 and 2020. With the diversity of tourism products in our region, proper planning and political will, Africa stands to benefit greatly from tourism. Iam sure that during the course of this Seminar, these positions will be further elaborated by experts.

Coming back to the national scene, tourism plays a vital role in Tanzania's economic development and it is one of the major sources of foreign exchange earnings. The sector currently accounts for 16% of the GDP and nearly 25% of total foreign exchange. It also directly supports an estimated 198,000 jobs. Tourist arrivals have also been growing steadily over the past ten years. Between 1994 and 2003, tourist arrivals more than doubled from 261,595 in 1994 to 576,198 in 2003. In the same period Foreign exchange receipts increased from US$ 192.10 million to US$731 million an increase of more than three fold

The Tanzania Development Vision 2025 envisages transforming the economy from a low productivity agricultural economy to a semi-industrialised country. The vision also aims at alleviating poverty and improving the livelihood of the Tanzanians, by providing them with education, health care, good living environment, peace and unity.

This seminar is being held at the opportune time, the time, when the Government is putting final touches on the Poverty Reduction Strategy II (PRS II) review process. The PRS II key objectives are to increase the economic growth and reduce income poverty, improve people's livelihood and social welfare, which also implies brooding sect oral coverage and finally enhance good governance and accountability

In order to achieve the above-mentioned objectives, several strategies have been put in place. Sustainable Tourism Development has been one of the strategies being given special emphasis by the Government as a means towards poverty alleviation; with the understanding that, Sustainable Tourism Development addresses needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their needs.

As part of the strategy, the sector policies emphasize active community involvement in sustainable utilization of natural and cultural resources. It is in this spirit for example, that 25% of revenue accrued mainly from hunting activities in Game Reserves is ploughed back to respective villages surrounding the reserves community projects. Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority and Tanzania National Parks on the other hand have a programme known as good neighborliness (Ujirani Mwema). In this programme, local people are involved in conservation of natural resources and environment in the protected areas and benefit from tourism activities taking place in their areas in form of support to community projects. In the period of three years from 1999 to 2001 for example, TANAPA spent a total of Tsh 1,030,901,292 (US$ 1,288,626.62) as a direct contribution to local communities projects.  In order to broaden community participation in this area and benefit sharing, a special programme of Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) is being introduced which will make communities in the designated areas also benefit in an organized way.

In 1996, the government of Tanzania in collaboration with SNV, a Non Governmental Organisation based in the Netherlands, initiated a pilot project on Cultural Tourism whose aim was to establish a framework that could promote Cultural tourism where local people could benefit directly.

By the end of 2001, a total of 20 tourism modules were operational in the North-Eastern areas of Tanzania. In the same year 23,827 tourists visited the modules while a total of Tsh 186,466,000 was obtained as income to the modules. Out of this amount, Tsh. 121,202,000 was direct benefit to individuals and Tsh 65,263,100 went to the Village Development Fund (VDF)

Cultural tourism has been more extensively developed in several countries represented in this seminar than in Tanzania.  We feel that given the size of this country and its cultural diversity, further development is possible with resources available but with more exchange of experiences which this seminar will make possible.  Expansion in this area will provide further opportunities for addressing poverty with resources available in many communities.

I have been informed that the objective of this seminar is to identify tourism potentials and find ways through which Sustainable Tourism Development can impact on our war against poverty.  It is my expectation that by the end of this three-days seminar, you will be able to come up with imprementable recommendations on how best we can develop sustainable tourism and use the benefits accrued from it to alleviate poverty among our people.  Most of our people live in the rural areas where the District Authorities have the easiest and best access.  The challenge therefore is how to empower the Districts to share with us the concerns and become the effective promoter of appropriate cultural and Eco tourism project, which address poverty reduction. It is my hope that you will make use of this opportunity to share experiences and make contacts for future networking.

Seminar participants were hosted on a field trip sponsored by  Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority for co-sponsoring the field trip to the world famous Ngorongoro Crater and Tanzania National Parks.   More information, email: Karentravel@aol.com