By Godwin Semunyu.

Tanzania records an estimated 1.5 million tourists annually, accounting for 17 percent of the GDP, more than 2 million employments – and is the leading sector in foreign exchange earnings garnering over $2 billion annually (about Sh4.6 trillion). According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

International tourist arrivals to Africa grow at around 5% per annum with close to 1.4 billion visitors. Africa’s top tourism destinations are Morocco, with around 11 million arrivals, and South Africa, with around 10 million tourist arrivals, annually.

If you look closely at the figures, you will notice that destination Tanzania, blessed with unraveled natural attractions from the breathtaking coastline, National parks to Africa’s highest peak in Mount Kilimanjaro, ought to have more significant numbers than what is currently garnered.

It is time to repackage our tourists’ offerings by adding more value and create a new competitive edge. You will agree that Morocco has nothing astronomical to get ten times the tourists than what Tanzania is getting. There are some other areas that we can tap to add value to our tourists’ packages: Sports and medical tourism come to mind.

Sports tourism is a diamond in the rough, Today, sport is regarded as the world’s largest social phenomenon. And, tourism is on its way to becoming one of the world’s most significant industry—an optimal combination of the two, tourists from all over the world dance to your tunes.

Whether it is the World Cup, the Olympics, Marathons, Tennis, Golf, Formula One, NBA Finals, or a mere “El Classico” soccer match between Real Madrid verses Barcelona in Spain, more and more tourists are now interested in traveling to new destinations, just for sports activities. In 2018 the sports tourism industry was worth $1.41 trillion, and this figure is expected to increase to approximately $5.72 trillion by 2021. This is a whopping 41% growth in only four years.

This is a diamond in the rough. For Tanzania, it is about time to capitalize on this booming industry. One area that can yield instant success in staging world-class marathons. For the year 2021, Tanzania has register 97 Marathons to take part in different parts of the country. I firmly believe that the time has come to turn the marathon from “fun runs” to internationally recognized races.

It is time to ensure at least 3 of our Marathons, especially those in tourist towns such as Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar, are organized to international standards to attract international participants. In Ethiopia, for instance, every November, they contain races named “Great Ethiopian Run,” drawing close to 37000 participants, the majority being foreigners. We already have a Blueprint in Kili-Marathon that attracts close to 12,000 athletes annually; it is time to build into it by creating a memorable experience for the runners.

Strategically, the event can be turned from the current one-day event to a week-long festival that includes music festivals and park tours. On the other hand, Beach-based sports such as beach soccer and volleyball can also attract international attention if well organized and promoted. The Beach soccer competitions are comparatively cheaper in terms of investments, but the returns could be quite significant.

This tournament can be arranged parallel with the annual “Sauti za Busara” concert in Zanzibar to rip tourists from both the music and sports worlds. It is time to contemplating hosting CAF Beach Soccer Tournament. Medical tourism is the new norm. Over the past few years, Tanzania has transformed the health sector with Investment in specialized services, which has reduced the number of patients seeking medical treatment abroad.

Records show that Tanzania refers to 200 to 300 patients abroad annually, but the number has since dropped to less than 60. The health sector’s significant improvements could open doors to become a minor medical tourism destination for neighboring countries. Tanzania can borrow a leaf from India’s medical tourism industry, which is estimated to grow by 200% by 2021, hitting $9 billion.

India receives close to 240,000 foreign tourists annually on medical grounds. A significant percent is coming from African countries. With the improvement in Tanzania’s renowned medical establishments, it will be comparatively cheaper for people from most African countries to opt for Tanzania as a preferred medical tourism destination.

On several occasions, we have heard of significant improvements at the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) and Ocean Road Cancer Institutes, which can handle complicated cases referred abroad. The two giants also receive patients from neighboring countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Comoro, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, and Burundi.

The horizons can be broadened. Tourism is undoubtedly amongst the leading pillars of our economy in terms of employment and earnings. However, with the market dynamics and sizeable competition from the world over, we ought to be more creative and vigilant in increasing value for tourists to pick Tanzania from all the available alternatives. For comments, please email me : gsemunyu@epicpr.co.tz

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