Dar locks foreign investors out of tourism sector By MIKE MANDE The East African In a move that confirms the growing resentment of foreign investors in Tanzanias tourism sector, the government plans to introduce legislation to bar foreigners from engaging in tourism related businesses in the country. The new legislation expected to come into effect as early as next year proposes to restrict the participation of foreign investors in areas such as travel agency business, mountain climbing, trekking or owning tour and travel operations in the country. While the minister in charge of tourism will retain powers and discretion to grant exemptions, especially with regard to existing business, the expectation is that some of the business people will be asked to leave. According to the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Prof Jumanne Maghembe, the Tourism Bill 2007, will also establish the Tanzania Tourism Licensing Board, which will spell out a new legal framework for receipt and consideration of new licences. Prof Maghembe said the new regime will also clearly spell out areas of business activity that will remain exclusive for locals while putting in place a mechanism to ensure that tourism business benefits local communities surrounding wildlife reserves. The regulatory authority will also have powers to penalise offenders who contravene the Tanzanian laws and regulations in the tourism sector. The new regulations will also set age limits and basic qualifications for workers in the industry. For instance, the new law proposes to set the age limit for a tour guide at 21, with qualifications including an ordinary-level education, a valid First Aid certificate and adequate knowledge in the area of business. Any tourism operator who commits an offence under these measures shall on conviction be liable to a fine of not less than $10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, said Prof Maghembe. The new move is certain to elicit stiff opposition from the international tourism fraternity. The idea of creating exclusive businesses for Tanzania nationals is especially going to be controversial as it represents a major policy reversal in a country currently enjoying an unprecedented growth in the tourism sector mainly fuelled by new foreign investment. International lobby groups such as the Universal Federation of Travel Agents Association an international umbrella for travel agencies will no doubt come to the defence of the interests of their members. In an interview with The EastAfrican, Patrick Mwele, vice president of the Federation of East and Southern African Travel Agents (Fesata), said from Lusaka that the move was not only likely to kill competition, but it will expose the country to charges of practising nationalisation. Mr Mwele said the travel agency business flourished better in conditions of competition, pointing out that the best way to strengthen Tanzanian-owned travel agencies was to expose them to competition with international travel agencies. He said the move will damage the countrys image as an attractive destination for investment in tourism. Fesata is not sure as to how the international community will react to the issue, but our feeling is that what has been done amounts to reverse driving, he said. He said his organisation had been informed of the new regulations and will soon convene a meeting of members to discuss it. Under the new law, severe penalties will be meted out to tourists who take photographs of local communities within the tourism facilities, especially if it can be proved that their intentions disparaged, make fun of, or reinforce stereotypes that lower the esteem of Tanzanians. Opposition to the Bill is expected from associations such as the Tanzania Society of Travel Agents (Tasota), which is one of the most active association of businesses in the country. With more than 27 travel agents in its membership, Tasotas wide and convincing mandate has allowed it to emerge as the pre-eminent voice of the tourism industry in Tanzania and has remained vocal whenever it felt that policies introduced by the government were not in the interest of its members. Tasota often speaks for a wide range stakeholders, including suppliers, airlines, charter companies, hotels and travel agency associations in Kenya and Uganda. The Bill, which is expected to strengthen and improve the regulation of tourism facilities and activities for both domestic and international tourists, will be tabled in parliament during the next session.