The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is supporting the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) to revive the Tanzania tourism industry to spur other businesses, recover thousands of lost jobs, and generate revenue to the economy.

Wildlife tourism in Tanzania continues to grow with nearly 1.5 million tourists visiting the country annually, earning the country $2.5 billion – equivalent to nearly 17.6 percent of GDP. This cements its position as the country’s leading foreign currency earner.

Additionally, tourism provides 600,000 direct jobs to Tanzanians and over one million others earn an income from the industry.

As countries begin to recover and tourism restarts in a growing number of destinations, Tanzanian authorities have reopened its skies for international passenger flights from June 1, 2020, becoming the first country in the East African region to welcome tourists to visit and enjoy its endowed attractions.

The UNDP-Tanzania has supported TATO financially to convert the Toyota Landcruiser donated by its member, Tanganyika Wilderness Camps, into a state-of-the-art ambulance.

The funds also purchased the much-needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in a bid to protect tourists and those who serve them against the COVID-19 disease.

The state-of-the-art ambulance is among the fleet of 4 which have been converted by Hanspaul Automechs Ltd., a local specialist company in Safari vehicle conversions.

The ambulances will be deployed into tourism hotbed areas, namely Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Kilimanjaro National Park, and Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem.

The main objective of deploying the ambulances is to assure tourists that Tanzania is well prepared to act promptly in case of an emergency and as part of the national plan to roll out a welcome mat for holidaymakers.

“Today will go down in history as the day that marks the private sector supported by UNDP in a move to compliment the government efforts to assure tourists of their safety amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Natural Resources and Tourism Permanent Secretary Dr. Aloyce Nzuki during the official launch of the ambulance in Tanzania’s northern safari capital of Arusha.

Dr. Nzuki poured a lot of praise to the TATO and UNDP strategic partnership saying the move will certainly play a great deal in an effort to restore tourism to its former glory.

TATO, a 37-year-old advocacy agency for a multi-billion dollar industry with 300-plus members across the natural resources-rich East African country, has its base in the northern safari capital of Arusha.

UNDP is the leading the United Nations organization fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with a broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, it helps nations to build integrated lasting solutions for people and the planet.

This initiative will be rolled out on a public-private partnership (PPP) model of which the government will provide paramedics and the private sector will offer ambulances.

Christine Musisi, UNDP Resident Representative, said: “Cognizant of [the] tourism industry as an accelerator of sustainable development with potential to contribute towards several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) due to its cross-cutting and multiplying effect on other sectors and industries, we are keen to continue supporting the government in the development of a Comprehensive Recovery Plan for the tourism industry both in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar.”

“We in TATO are so grateful to UNDP for the much-needed support. This will go a long way to support the responsible and timely recovery of the industry – a major foreign currency earner on which thousands of small businesses and jobs depend,” said TATO CEO, Mr. Sirili Akko.

Tourism, one of the hardest-hit industries by the novel coronavirus disease epidemic, is slowly but surely rebounding in Tanzania after uncertainty for nearly 5 months and is offering a ray of hope to the economy.

The latest statistics from the state-run conservation and tourism agency show that over 30,000 tourists visited the country’s national parks in July alone.

Tanzania National Parks’ Assistant Conservation Commissioner, in charge of the Business Development portfolio, Ms. Beatrice Kessy, said by August 17, 2020, the country received over 18,000 tourists, implying that tourism is recovering.

Serengeti, Manyara, and Kilimanjaro national parks are leading in terms of receiving a lion’s share of tourists amid the COVID-19 pandemic after having attracted a total of 7,811; 1,987; and 1,676 tourists, respectively.

In contrast, Tanapa’s data indicates that in August, Ibanda and Mahale national parks drew only 7 and 6 visitors, respectively. Tourists visiting all 22 national parks countrywide had sharply dropped to just 3 immediately after Tanzania confirmed its first COVID-19 case on March 16, 2020.

“National parks used to receive 1,000-plus visitors during the low season in the past,” Ms. Kessy explained, attributing the current gradual upsurge of tourists visiting the country to a recovery plan which the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism jointly devised in partnership with the private sector as well as the UNDP based on UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) guidelines.