Tourism Trap for Tanzania
Coronavirus will challenge a poor nation that depends on the safari industry
The world changed quickly in the early months of this year. When I arrived Tanzania in January, visits to that beautiful African country were on the rise. Tanzania’s receipts from tourism increased by 4.4 percent to US $2.6 billion for the 12 months ended in January, according to a monthly economic report.
At the time, attracting visitors seemed like a good thing for Tanzania. The safari route through the famous Ngorongoro Crater was busy on the day of our visit, as you can see in this photo.
People have been trying for years to leverage Tanzania’s natural wonders to lift the nation from poverty. Among these is the Ngorongoro Crater, said to be the largest unbroken caldera in the world.
Calderas are like giant natural bowls created by the eruptions of massive volcanoes. With steep walls, the crater covers an area of 186 miles and stretches about 12 miles across. Animals tend to stick around the crater, making it an easy place to spot many of them on a short visit.
We saw rhinos from a distance and many ostriches and zebras up close.
We saw wildebeest on the march.
We saw Cape buffalos that looked deceptively cute, despite being among the more dangerous animals on the planet.
We even had the luck to see an active crowd of hippos at this pond where we stopped for lunch.
We also visited Tanzania’s Lake Manyara National Park, which was an unexpected gem. My husband got this shot of one of the park’s famous lions sleeping in a tree.
We saw baboons playing in the trees. To say you saw baboons in Africa is like saying you saw squirrels in Washington, D.C. But the little baboons we saw on entering Lake Manyara were adorable. The shots below were taken by David G. Young.
The star attraction of Lake Manyara is its elephant population.
In a 2015 report titled “The Elephant in the Room: Unlocking the Potential of the Tourism Industry for Tanzanians,” The World Bank acknowledged the risks of increasing the number of visitors to this country. These including damage to the environment.
Even so, the World Bank advocates for expanding the number of visitors to the country. It presented paths for using increased tourism to create jobs and bring in more revenue for Tanzania.
“The type of high-end tourists that Tanzania currently attracts are ready to pay a significant amount of money in order to visit its unique attractions, thereby providing hard currency in a country where approximately one-third of the population is still living under the national poverty line,” the World Bank said. “Although Tanzania’s tourism sector has grown rapidly over the past decade, it could be leveraged to provide even greater benefits for a larger number of Tanzanians.”
Today, when it seems most of the world’s population is sticking close to home, it is hard to imagine when people will start booking new flights to places like Tanzania — or anywhere else.
After all, it was the 21rst century ease of travel that helped spread the coronavirus around the globe.
Tanzania’s first confirmed case of coronavirus came as one of its citizens returned home from Belgium on March 14, Voice of America reported. But it could just as easily been a tourist who brought the disease.
That’s the challenge for countries like Tanzania. They can benefit from inviting foreigners to visit, but that can also put them at risk of greater exposure to emerging pathogens. Health officials already are worried about how Africa nations with fragile medical systems will handle coronavirus.
As of March 19, Tanzania had three confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO put the global coronavirus tally for the day at 209,839.
One of the best ways to stop the spread of coronavirus will be to keep our hands to ourselves. That’s where nation’s leaders should try to use their clout to prevent the spread of the virus.
Tanzania’s top leaders, for example, aided this cause by making the “footshake” a thing on social media.
The Tanzanian government released this photo of president John Pombe Magufuli greeting opposition politician Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, according to Africanews.com. The Tanzanian government also has discouraged hugging.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of WHO, this week urged an end to mass gatherings in general, BBC.com reported. African countries must prepare for the worst, said Tedros, who is Ethiopian. He warned against having a sense of complacency.
“Africa should wake up, my continent should wake up,” he said.