Israeli tourists hail Tanzania`s landscape

The serene rural Tanzanian landscape has wowed more than 1000 tourists from Israel who have just concluded their week-long tour of the country, leaving them planning for more future visits to explore the beauty of the country further.

The visitors from the Middle East have also expressed their admiration of the friendly attitude shown by the Tanzanians who they said were easy to make acquaintance with, noting that Israel stands a good chance of investing in cultural tourism.

The tour guide and leader of the group, Hagit Geffen stated they were surprised by the Tanzanians way of life as most of them seem to live in rural areas far away from towns and cities, and still the government manages to reach out to all these places, providing electricity, water and other essential services.

One of the tourists in the group observed that while back home in Israel people live in cities, towns or Kibbutz (a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture) they are not as scattered as here. He also was surprised to see how people managed to get essential needs and basic services far away from cities and towns, yet he thought people must always live in big clusters in order to get services. He further stated that even the language in simple to master noting that in just a few days most of the tourists were able to learn Swahili words and could easily sing the song `Jambo Bwana, Habari Gani? ` citing that they were singing the song along their trips to Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire and Lake Manyara.

The tourists expressed their desire to return to Tanzania, but this time to really meet and understand the people of Tanzania whom they described to be warm, friendly, happy and peaceful.

A communications official for the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) described the arrival of more than 1000 tourists from the Middle East as a `typhoon` which has occurred during the off-season period in the northern circuit. The number of Israeli tourists visiting Tanzania rose to 36,640  in 2017, from 4,635 in 2012, according to data from the tourism board.

The Tourism Minister Dr. Hamis Kigwangalla said the marketing drive is paying dividends since the world is now turning to Tanzania as destination of choice when studying their global travel plans. In February this year, Tanzanian tourism experts attended the International Mediterranean Travel Market (IMTM) in Tel Aviv, Israel to promote the tourist attractions in the country.

The Zion tourists were seen off by the Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa at the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) over the weekend. The premier said their visit was among ongoing strategies to cultivate mutual cooperation between Jerusalem and Dar es Salaam.

The influx of Israel tourists to Tanzania comes after Israel opened its first visa processing centre in Dar es Salaam putting an end to necessitate people from Tanzania and Israel from traveling to Nairobi for visa related issues. The Tanzanian government also established an embassy in Israel in 2018 which was aimed at strengthening the ties that had been severed by the Arab pressure during the Yom Kippur war of 1973.

Also read: Germany, United Kingdom tourists dominate Tanzania tourism market

No hope for Tanzania’s closed forex shops

The November 2018 closure of forex shops in Dar es Salaam by the government implicated 82 out the 87 forex shops in money laundering among other violations of the law.

So far, over 50 forex shops in the commercial capital have not opened business for weeks after the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) opened an impromptu inspection into their undertakings. Preliminary findings by the regulator found out that some of these businesses were flouting the law, regulations and procedures associated with the money changing business.

The BoT governor, Professor Florens Luoga stated that the ongoing probe has revealed a lot of rot, noting that a final report on the matter will be issued once the exercise is completed. The governor specified that only five of the 87 forex shops in Dar es Salaam were operating within the law and the rest were associated with money laundering.

The governor made the statement at a press conference convened by the Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Philip Mpango to brief reporters on the ongoing crackdown of forex shops in Arusha and Dar es Salaam.

The minister stated that the inspection revealed there were a lot of transactions from the formal money system to unlawful system, thus elements of money laundering weakening the local currency and among other actions threatening the national security. The minister further stated that some of the shops were found to spend a lot Tanzanian shillings buying foreign currencies, but few reports were found on how the foreign money left. He also insisted that the inspection was in line with national laws, contrary to complaints from some people that the exercise was against the law and was a violation of the traders` rights.

The minister argued the BoT was following on the matter to ascertain the facts behind various transactions. He also said relevant legal procedures were followed in confiscating various equipment like computers, mobile phones or special information storage machines to help with investigations, and no money confiscated from the shops was nationalized. The minister stated the government has prepared new policies specifying on licence application and operation of forex shops noting that the guidelines will help to create a good business environment and eliminate risks to the entire financial sector.

Speaking on the effects of the inspection, he said the shilling has slightly gained strength rising from Tshs.2450 against the dollar at the onset of the inspections to an average Tshs.2300 currently. At the same time, commercial banks have also increased their daily collection of foreign currencies reaching Tshs.34.5 billion ($15 million) per day. The minister hoped that through the government`s control of the business, commercial banks and other financial institutions in the country would trade more foreign currencies thus increasing their stock. He also dispelled speculations that the government carried out the crackdown because it lacked foreign currency in its coffers.

Also read: The Tanzanian forex business under scrutiny

Tanzania forex business shifted to banks