The Tanzanian government and Tanzanian National Parks (TANAPA) recently announced the introduction of concession fees, effective from July 1, applicable to all permanent facilities within the national parks.
Ngorongoro Conservation area, Selous Game Reserve and other protected areas that do not fall under TANAPA are currently not affected.
The tourism industry is engaging in discussions with the authorities to try and reduce the fees or delay the implementation, according to Fred Landi, Operations Director for Naked Wilderness.
There has been a lot of discussion about the impact the fees may have on tourism in the area.
Julian Asher, from Timeless Africa, said that, based on clients’ feedback, the main issue was the rushed implementation and the perception that there was a never-ending list of additional fees in Tanzania.
He said most clients did not mind paying concession fees if they supported conservation, however the rushed implementation of the fees had created a negative impression.
“Many of the clients travelling during this year’s high season who have been hit by this fee increase were also hit by the sudden increase in VAT last year, and this is creating the impression that visitors are constantly being milked for ‘yet another fee’. This is particularly true in comparison with Kenya, where the trend has been to reduce park fees,” said Asher.
The hasty implementation also implied that the government did not understand how the tourism industry worked, said Asher, as people generally planned trips a year in advance and having to add more fees at the last minute always created a negative impression.
Minaz Manji from Twiga Tours is not against the increase in the park entry fees if it will help reduce the huge numbers who continue to visit East Africa, as the environment can’t keep up with mass tourism, with degradation leading to a possible decline in wildlife numbers and eventually the tourism sector.
Manji’s complaint lies with the short lead time given for the enforcement and the exclusion of stakeholders in arriving at this decision. TANAPA’s demand to enforce collection within 45 days of its official communication to the stakeholders, with the condition that full payment be made prior to, or on arrival at the entry gate, unnecessarily involved visitors and tour operators, when this was a matter between TANAPA and lodge owners to agree upon.
The solution is that government needs to give enough lead time when announcing notice of such changes, agree Asher and Manji. Asher says the government needs to give a minimum of six months’ notice of such changes and confirmed itineraries should be exempt.
“A surprise such as this is certainly not professional, nor in the best interest of the Tanzanian economy,” says Manji.
Landi said all camps and lodges had started to charge their clients in the interim. “As this was a sudden announcement, some tour operators have agreed to absorb these additional fees on behalf of their clients, who had already fully paid for their safaris for a short period of time.”
Most stakeholders in the industry appreciate the conservation efforts made by the government, and the need for increased revenue. The only real issue lies with the implementation method, with no time for communication to the end consumer.
“This increase is therefore definitely going to have a negative impact on Tanzania’s tourism, considering park fees in neighbouring countries like Kenya and Uganda, which offer an almost similar product, are much lower,” added Landi.