ZANZIBAR remains famous among tourists, visitors and holidaymakers from East Africa and beyond as a travel destination with wonderful beaches, exceptional red monkeys and other rare animal species.
Narrow streets, historical buildings and monuments, scuba diving, snorkelling, playing with dolphins, sea ride, spice farms and Forodhani Gardens are other forms of enjoyment that attract tourists.
The good performance of the tourist industry has been partly attributed to the perception that the archipelago is a secure destination and the promotional efforts made by the ministry responsible for tourism. Zanzibar offers a number of other attractions to tourists in terms of hotels, accessibility/transportation and festivals.
Domestically, tourism has been Zanzibar’s key engine of economic growth and development at least for the past decade. The rising trend had further continued before the emergence of Covid-19. After the emergence of Covid-19 pandemic, Zanzibar joined other nations to close down tourism business since March this year to minimize risk of contracting the disease.
The country is now re-opening doors for tourism after the decline of coronavirus in the country. As tourism reopens, tourists should expect some improvements made during the four-month ‘break’ due to the pandemic.
“Tourists planning to come to Zanzibar should expect to find a better environment than before,” the government authorities said. The government has improved roads after completing the construction of a bridge named Dr Shein Bridge at Kibonde-Mzungu, which connects Zanzibar city and Unguja South region.
“We bought construction equipment worth 14bn/- to ease and speed up improvement of roads,” President Ali Mohamed Shein said recently in his speech before dissolving the House of Representatives.
He said the air transport sector is being improved with projects to expand airports (Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (AAKIA)and Karume Airport in Pemba), which include increasing the length of taxi-way from 1,805 metres to 3,427 metres to handle bigger planes.
The construction of Terminal III building at the AAKIA is progressing and expected to be completed by end of September this year at a cost of USD 128.4 million. Initially, the project budget was USD 70.4 million when it started in 2013.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) is supporting the improvement of Karume Airport in Pemba, where planes now land at night.
Security has been improved including the construction of an 11-km fence at the airport, purchase of five screening machines to be used at entry points (airports and seaports) for security checks, and installation of CCTV cameras in various areas of the Stone Town.
Measures taken by the government to improve air transport have resulted in an annual increase of flights from 42,733 in 2010 to 66,393 last year, while there has been a record increase of travellers from 596,252 in 2010 to 1,426,866 last year. Cargo handling has increased from 584 tonnes in 2010 to 2,538 tonnes in 2019.
A record of 24,863 visitors, including tourists visited historical sites in 2019, up from 13,251 visitors in 2010. “Everyone has the responsibility of protecting historical sites, which are important in conservation of our culture,” Dr Shein says.
He says that the number of tourists from regions with emerging economies like Asia and Europe was increasing drastically before the coronavirus pandemic. Zanzibar has more than 509 tourist hotels (2019 statistics) of different grades.
The number of tourists increased from 133,000 in 2010 to 538,264 last year, equivalent to a four per cent increase. As tourism revives gradually after Covid-19, the number of tourists is expected to double.
Minister for Information, Tourism and heritage Mahmoud Thabit Kombo has reiterated that the government is well prepared for the return of tourists after the easing of Covid-19.