Tan Total Turmoil

Tan Total Turmoil

An attempt today by Tanzania to provide long awaited statistics about its tourism fell flat on its face, as the agency reporting the statistics reported widely different numbers on different websites.

Why is Tanzania attempting this extremely poor PR lie? I think I know why.

The tourist industry has been frustrated for my entire career in obtaining good tourist statistics for East Africa, necessary for investment and planning. The most reliable until recently has been the World Bank, but in the last few years many governments have balked allowing WB auditors, so the bank has recently simply accepted the number provided them.

In the case of Tanzania, the numbers are laughable.

The most recent report, The 2016 International Visitors Exit Survey, (which is available as a saved pdf if needed) reports a healthy increase in tourists with numbers that are plausible but questionable.

The first difficulty is that Tanzania’s record keeping is notoriously bad. There is no distinction, for example, made to visitors arriving as vacationers or otherwise. Landing cards request the arriving individual to advise this status, but few do, because the process of obtaining a business visa is exceptionally more difficult.

Last year’s new clamp down on tax remission by tourist properties is a further indication that the government has been incapable of compiling statistics from the places visitors stay at.

The report is rife with so many inconsistencies it’s hard to know which to note. Here’s the most revealing:

The government reports that the top ten countries from which tourists arrived in 2016, in order, are USA, UK, Germany, Italy, India, Israel, France, China, Netherlands and Canada; and that together they make up 61.9% of the total 1.2 million visitors.

From the personal experience of many of us, that seems plausible. As you delve into the nitty gritty, though, percentages start not to add up, and more importantly, analyses go caflooie:

The report admits that Chinese tourists declined to 29,224 in 2017 from 34,472 the year before. Chinese tourism is declining worldwide because of their contracting economy: that makes sense. But, the report continues, “Chinese tourists spent an average of $541 per night compared to $178 for most other tourists, including those from North America.”

This is laughable.

The investment website for Tanzanian tourism reportsthe following:

81% of the total number of tourist arrivals in Tanzania visited the country for leisure and holiday with most of the visitors coming from Africa (46%) and Europe (32%). Average expenditure per tourist per night was in the range between USD117 and USD277 in 2014, compared to USD236–328 in 2010.”

The numbers aren’t real and are nowhere near actual expenditure per day. They are further conflicted when compared to other parts of the agency report:

If 81% of the tourist arrivals were only for leisure or holiday, what were the remaining 19% for? If 46% came from Africa, how could 61.9% come from the top ten foreign countries?

Is it logical that average nightly expenditure was $117-277, since that’s not an average but a range?

It’s understandable that it’s difficult for countries to compile accurate tourism statistics. Even the U.S. is dependent upon the voluntary information provided by foreign arrivals and even with some of the most sophisticated compilation algorithms possible, we fall short of true accuracy.

How can we expect a developing country to prioritize resources to this so difficult task? As a result many countries do their best and admit it falls short. Why, on the other hand, is Tanzania trying the opposite?

“Plans are afoot for the national carrier, ATCL, to operate flights to China and India … by its newly acquired 787 Dreamliner,” reports Tanzania’s Citizen newspaper.

Air Tanzania has one of the most awful records, financially and operationally, of any airline on earth. Two years ago the country tried to restart Air Tanzania with two new short-haul aircraft, and today none of us even know where those aircraft are.

The acquisition of a Dreamliner, if it’s true, is a scandal that’s already been made. Perhaps Tanzania has achieved some agreement form India or China to authorize flights. None of us believe it will happen. Later in the story, the newspaper reports the Dreamliner will be used first “for a few months” between Dar-es-Salaam and Kilimanjaro, a short-haul route of about an hour’s length, certainly not something appropriate for a Dreamliner.

So the inflated statistics are being built to support the launch of a Dreamliner. One mistake after another.