Zanzibar, renowned for its pristine white-sand beaches, azure waters, and rich cultural heritage, has achieved a remarkable feat in the tourism sector as it welcomes over one million visitors.
According to thecitizen.co.tz, despite facing challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic, Zanzibar has experienced a remarkable turnaround in recent years, emerging as a sought-after destination for global travelers.
The Zanzibar Tourism Commission reports a substantial surge in tourism, with international arrivals alone increasing by an impressive 110.28 percent from 260,644 in 2020 to 548,503 in 2022. The combined total of international and domestic arrivals has now surpassed the ambitious one million mark set by authorities for achievement by 2025.
Zanzibar’s Minister for Tourism and Heritage, Simai Mohammed Said, acknowledged the milestone, highlighting that the previous statistics did not account for mainland visitors who arrive daily for conferences and weekend leisure activities. The influx of visitors arriving on the island’s eight ferries daily has contributed to the surpassing of the one million target.
Several factors contribute to this tourism boom, including the early easing of Covid-19 restrictions, Zanzibar’s growing popularity as a tourist destination, and the island’s continuous efforts to enhance its tourism infrastructure.
The impact of this tourism growth extends beyond the influx of visitors, significantly influencing the Zanzibari economy. In 2022, the tourism sector contributed 29.2 percent to the island’s GDP, marking a substantial increase from 16 percent in 2020. This economic growth has translated into job creation, improved economic prosperity, and an enhanced quality of life for many residents.
The positive trend is further reflected in the rise in the number of hotels and guest houses on the island, reaching 709 in 2023, compared to 620 in 2020. This expansion addresses the growing demand for accommodation across various classes of tourists, further solidifying Zanzibar’s position as a thriving and inclusive tourism destination.
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.