MPs: Govt to blame for poor tourist earnings By Rodgers Luhwago, Dodoma THE CITIZEN The MPs yesterday blamed the Government for the country's failure to fully benefit from the lucrative tourism industry. Speaking at the National Assembly in Dodoma, the lawmakers singled out the bottlenecks in the development of tourism as poor planning and lack of creativity, saying the two factors explained the meagre foreign exchange earnings from the industry despite the rich attractions. The MPs faulted the Government on the exploitation of the country's natural resources, which is benefiting foreigners and a clique of local businessmen who have kept a foothold in the sector. They described Tanzania as a sleeping giant. The lawmakers were contributing to the debate on the 2008/9 Budget estimations for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. The budget was passed last evening.Government officials were blamed for lopsided planning as the MPs appealed for a change in attitude if the sector was to be turned around. They said the unexploited tourism potential should be given priority. MP Peter Serukamba (CCM-Kigoma Urban) said that despite having long sandy beaches, Tanzania was reaping less than what smaller countries such as Madagascar and Mauritius were getting from the resource. Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and even our neighbours, Kenya, have fewer tourist attractions but they are earning more than us. Mr Speaker, let's change our mindsets, Mr Serukamba said. He said that despite the Government leaders globetrotting they were not learning anything from those trips. Mr Speaker, I think we have been going on trips to various countries in the world just for shopping. Mr Serukamba proposed that the Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) should hold shares in tourist hotels owned by foreign investors to closely supervise activities in the vast game reserves in the country.The MPs wondered why the government had once more failed to enforce its own declaration that tourist facilities charge their customers in Tanzanian shillings to promote the local currency. According to Mr Serukamba, making tourists pay in shillings would earn the country more foreign currency since they would be forced to bring in the hard currency in exchange for the shilling. MP Fatuma Mikidadi (CCM-Nominated) said Germans transported to their country five dinosaurs weighing 80 tons each from Lindi region in 1909 for tourist purposes. She said that up today, the skeletons of the creatures that disappeared many decades ago are stored in a special cage in Germany and benefiting the country. According to the MP, hundreds of tourists have been visiting Germany to view the dinosaurs. Today, if you want to go to Germany to view the skeletons you have to make a booking months before, she said, asking the government to make a follow up on the mater so that they can be brought back to the country.The MP also accused the Government of turning a blind eye to other historical attractions found in Southern regions. In addition, MP Riziki Mikidadi (CCM- Nominated) raised similar concerns, saying if it was hard to bring the dinosaurs back, then an arrangement should be made so that at least 25 per cent of the money collected from tourists visiting the site to view them is given to Tanzania. And Mr Benson Mpesya (CCM Mbeya Urban) blamed greedy government officials whom he accused of colluding with investors to ensure tourism benefited a few people at the expense of the nation as a whole. Another MP, Benito Malangalila (CCM-Mufindi South) criticised authorities for failing to promote the Isimila Stone Age site in Iringa, while MPs Getrude Mongella (CCM- Ukerewe), Clemence Lyamba (CCM- Mikumi) and Hassan Kigwalilo (CCM Liwale) called for the adoption of affirmative action to enhance the development of areas with tourism attractions.