zanzibar touristFriday, October 27, 2023
What you need to know:
- The Covid-19 pandemic nearly drove the tourism sector to its knees, but in recent years, the island has seen a remarkable recovery, with a spike in tourism
Dar es Salaam. Zanzibar is known for its beautiful white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and rich history and culture, which is a major lure for tourists from across the globe.
Despite the drawbacks during the Covid-19 pandemic, the past few years have seen a complete turnaround.
The island has seen a surge in tourism, with a record number of visitors arriving in 2022.
According to the Zanzibar Tourism Commission, visitors to the island had increased by 110.28 percent from 260,644 in 2020 to 548,503 in 2022,
But these were mainly international arrivals; that number, in addition to the domestic arrivals, has now hit above the one million (1,000,000) ceiling, which was set by the authorities to be achieved by 2025.
Speaking to The Citizen, Zanzibar’s minister for tourism and heritage, Simai Mohammed Said, confirmed that the number of tourists has almost hit the one million mark.
“In the past, the numbers that we have been capturing did not take into consideration the visitors that arrive from the mainland on a daily basis for conferences and leisure on the weekends,” said Mr Said.
He added: “All those that come on the eight ferries on a daily basis have to sleep somewhere because not these hundreds have relatives here.” In his view, the surge in numbers has been driven by a number of factors, including the early easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the increasing popularity of Zanzibar as a tourist destination, and the island’s efforts to improve its tourism infrastructure.
The growth in tourism has had a significant impact on the Zanzibari economy.
“In 2022, the tourism sector contributed 29.2 percent of the island’s GDP, up from 16 percent in 2020. This growth has created jobs, boosted economic growth, and improved the quality of life for many Zanzibaris,’ he said.
In addition to the increase in the number of visitors, Zanzibar has also seen a growth in the number of hotels and guest houses.
“In 2023, there were 709 hotels and guest houses on the island, up from 620 in 2020. This growth has helped to meet the demand for accommodation from tourists in all the different classes,” he said.
The growth of tourism in Zanzibar has led to a boom in the construction of new hotels, including a number of five-star properties.
Between 2020 and 2023, eight new five-star hotels opened in Zanzibar. These hotels are located in a variety of locations around the island, including Nungwi, Matemwe, Pwani Mchangani, Kizimkazi, Michamvi, Pongwe, and the airport.
“The new five-star hotels offer a variety of amenities and services, including luxurious accommodations, world-class restaurants, and stunning views of the Indian Ocean. These hotels are attracting tourists from all over the world, and they are helping to boost the economy of Zanzibar,” said Mr Simai Mohamed.
The average length of stay for tourists in Zanzibar has also increased. In 2020, the average visitor stayed for six days, whereas in 2023, the average length of stay has increased to eight days.
This, according to him, suggests that tourists are spending more time on the island, which is benefiting the local economy.
The return of tourist airlines to Zanzibar is another factor that has been attributed to being one of the key factors contributing to the growth of tourism in Zanzibar.
“In 2020, there were only five major tourist airlines flying to Zanzibar. In 2023, there were 10 major tourist airlines flying to Zanzibar, including KLM, Air France, Global Airways, and Hifly,” he said.
He added: “This increase in the number of airlines flying direct to Zanzibar has made it easier and more affordable for tourists to visit the island. It has also helped to open up new markets for Zanzibar, such as Portugal.”
The return of major tourist airlines, according to him, is a sign of the growing popularity of Zanzibar as a tourist destination, which is now well-positioned to continue to attract tourists in the years to come.
The government of Zanzibar is committed to ensuring that tourism is sustainable on the island. In 2023, the government launched a new Sustainable Tourism Declaration, which outlines a set of principles and goals for sustainable tourism development in Zanzibar.
According to Mr Simai, the declaration recognises the importance of protecting the island’s natural environment, cultural heritage, and local communities.
“Improving the management of the Stone Town World Heritage Site is something that the government is working on to improve the infrastructure and services while also protecting the site’s cultural heritage. The government is working with tourism businesses and stakeholders to promote responsible tourism practices, such as reducing waste and promoting environmental conservation.”
Just like it is with the airlines, the tourism ministry says they are targeting cruise ships, which have become a growing source of tourism in Zanzibar.
The Zanzibar Tourism Commission says it has taken steps to attract cruise ships, including working with cruise lines, promoting Zanzibar as a cruise destination and providing infrastructure and amenities for cruise ships.