East African nation, Tanzania is hoping to shore up its tourist numbers with the commencement of issuance of visa on arrivals, saying that move will quickly woo back tourists to country.
According to hecitizen.co.tz, this was a better option for countries struggling to revive the sector severely hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Issuance of visas to tourists at the country’s diplomatic missions abroad was no longer necessary, said the Zanzibar minister for Tourism and Antiquities, Ms Leila Mohamed.
Speaking at the opening of the first East African Community (EAC) Regional Tourism Expo 2021, the minister said the old practice frustrated the flow of visitors.
Tanzania recently started to process the visa documents for tourists from abroad at the entry ports as a measure to boost the number of visitors.
Ms Mohamed said reforms in the Immigration services regarding where visas should be issued were necessary so as to turn around the tourism sector.
The minister also spoke on the visa applications rejected, technically known as Referred Visas, saying they should no longer be a matter of concern.
She said with the advanced technology in the world, it was much easier to track down the records of such visa applicants.
“Rejection or delaying clearance of visas for such people is counterproductive to the flow of tourists,” she said at the TGT grounds where the Expo is taking place.
Ordinarily, a Referred Visa is the one that requires special clearance for permission from the Director of Information in Dar es Salaam or the Principal Immigration Officer in Zanzibar.
These are travel documents for all refugees, stateless persons and nationals of some countries being Nigeria and other West African countries.
The others are visitors from 20 countries, mostly in the Middle East and South Asia and whose visa requests had to be referred to Dar es Salaam.
Ms Mohamed also called for improved air travel within Africa, saying poor connectivity among the countries was a hindrance to the travel industry.
She said connections within the continent remained so poor that some travellers have to go through Europe to reach an African country.
The three-day Expo has been organized by the EAC and the six partner state governments, the private sector and tourism agencies in the region.
Gracing the opening, EAC secretary general Peter Mathuki said were it not for Covid-19, the region had projected to receive 14 million visitors in 2025. He called for enhanced vaccination against Covid-19, saying the exercise would bring trust among the traditional tourist source countries.
Natural Resources and Tourism minister Damas Ndumbaro said the removal of Tanzania and other EAC countries on the UK Red List was an indication that Covid-19 protocols were being observed in the region.
Following the outbreak of the pandemic, visitors to the EAC had dropped to 2.25 million last year from 6.98 million in 2019, causing a revenue loss of $4.8 billion.
Tourism was once Tanzania’s leading foreign exchange earner with about $2.6 billion in 2019.
However, the sector has been affected by the outbreak of Covid-19 with revenue dropping to about $1.075 billion in the year to August 2021, according to the Bank of Tanzania.