Ruthanne Terrero, vice president and editorial director of the Questex Hopstiality and Travel Group interviewed the Honorable Lazaro Samuel Nyalandu, minister for tourism for the United Republic of Tanzania in Berlin during the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF).
Here’s an excerpt of their conversation, where they discussed the many natural wonders the country offers to visitors, as well as the potential for hotel investors.
Ruthanne Terrero: The American and the U.K. market are the number-one markets to Tanzania. What do these travelers find when they go there?
Minister Nyalandu: Tanzania is the new frontier for lovers of adventure travel. It has the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. Many people just want to go and be part of that amazing experience. Tanzania also has some of the finest facilities in the world. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee named the Serengeti ecosystem as one of the world amazing wonders.
Only in the Serengeti will you see the migration of one million wildebeest. Our country is blessed to have so many natural resources in terms of floral and fauna and in terms of wildlife. Then that is the reason the world will continue to come to Tanzania.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is memorizing. It's a magical experience. Many will remember Mrs. Hilary Clinton coming to Ngorongoro. She said it had blew her mind, in terms of what she saw, because it’s an overwhelming experience, something that is bigger than yourself. The largest caldera (the Ngorongoro Crater) in the world is there. I could go on and on.
Ruthanne Terrero: Can you tell me more about what you might see on a safari? What makes it different from the other safari destinations?
Minister Nyalandu: If you ever visit the wildebeest migration on the Serengeti, you will see hundreds upon hundreds and thousands of wildebeest coming your way. They are not hostile. They just want to go places as if they were responding to a very beautiful music chorus. It is the most amazing thing you can ever see in the world. You will also see the Big Five.
If you are in the Serengeti area, you will see vastness, there is this “Serengeti Mirage.” It is the ability to see something so big and so consuming; it’s an endless view that of the savannas. The other day, I was walking round the southern part of the country, Selous Game Reserve. It is the world's largest game reserve, 55,000 square kilometers. If you cannot appreciate that, it is the size of the entire country of Belgium. Here, the wildlife run freely. It is Africa's number one country with the majority of wild species, flora and fauna. Nothing else comes close.
With all the talk of elephant poaching, the number of elephants we have today in the Ruaha National Park alone equals to the entire population of elephant in the entire country of Kenya. We are talking about the sheer size and vastness of territories in the country, from the beaches that we have to some of the most exotic parks that you can imagine in the world.
Ruthanne Terrero: Another trend lately is people really want an authentic vacation; they like to interact with the local community quite a lot. Are there opportunities to do that in Tanzania?
Minister Nyalandu: We have started what we call cultural excursions, and a lot of tour operators are including them in the traditional safaris. These are the local peoples who have helped preserve the wildlife.
The Maasai have also become very involved. They help protect the wildlife, but they are also very musical. They show the Maasai old traditions; their way of life, their weddings, their ceremonies. We’re finding more tourists saying "You know what? I want to spend two days experiencing the Maasai experience."
We have the Hadzabe tribe. This is one of the oldest and smallest, tribes in the world. They use “click” language and they are only in Tanzania and South Africa today. They are gatherers and hunters and they are the most beautiful people who have kept their traditions. More and more Americans coming to Tanzania want to see the Hadzabe, they want to see the Maasai, they want to see the Barabaig.
We have cultural walking expeditions that are increasingly becoming more important. They give the opportunity for a tourist and those who arrange tourism packages to interact with people. We've seen a lot of people taking pride in building a classroom. Then they're coming back again. Tanzania is seeing more of the repeat tourist, people who have been there and said, "We loved it so much, we're going to come back with our friends." I think this has been a really positive direction in the right direction.
Ruthanne Terrero: I hear you are hosting a hotel investment conference in 2015.
Minister Nyalandu: This will be the first Africa Hotel Investment Forum ever held in the country of Tanzania. I'm going to make sure I provide the opportunity for every member of the delegation to visit one national park while they’re there. I want them to go to Mafia Island, to Kilwa and to Zanzibar; we're going to be making these arrangements.
I wish I could say otherwise, but the truth is we are lagging behind as a country for investment facilities. Sometimes during high season people cannot get lodging because we do not have enough. In the past, people kind of ignored Tanzania. They went to Kenya, to South Africa, to Botswana. They somehow bypassed us, but what has happened in the recent past is Tanzania has become the next frontier for oil and gas investment, so it brings a lot of business travelers. Also, for the first time, you can actually come and open your company in Tanzania. Within four days, you have all the certificates. You're in business. Also, the liberalization of the monetary systems in Tanzania has allowed investors to really take a second thought. My job is to tell the story, so that people will think and make a decision for themselves.
Ruthanne Terrero: So you're making it easy to do business in Tanzania and with Tanzania.
Minister Nyalandu: Yes. We are coming up with the Tanzanian story, about who we are as a country and as a tourist destination. We want to strengthen the relationships we and to make sure we have a long-term outlook, so that we can make Tanzania a very reliable destination. I look forward to be working with new people that I haven't met yet in the industry.