On Monday, Dr. Mohamed Gharib Bilal, Vice President of Tanzania, opened the First Pan-African Conference on Sustainable Tourism Management in African National Parks and Protected Areas, currently underway in Arusha. He emphasized the need for widespread cooperation in the conservation of wildlife and protected areas as Tanzania prepares to ramp up its capacity for inbound tourists in the coming years. The country’s stated goal is to double its number of tourists annually by 2015, from 800,000 currently to 1.6 million in three years. According to the Tanzania Tourist Board, more than 70% of Tanzania’s tourists visit national parks for game viewing, and more than 80% of foreign leisure travelers stick to the ‘northern circuit’ which includes Mt. Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro Crater, and Serengeti, Tarangire, and Lake Manyara National Parks.
Frederic Pierret, Executive Director of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), took the stage as well. He cited UNWTO forecasts that anticipate growth of 50% in African tourism over the next nine years, from 50 million visitors per year to 134 million.
Statistics like these bring to light the increasing pressure that will be placed on delicate ecosystems within Tanzania’s parks, and the importance of a balanced approach to development that places a high priority on conservation and sustainable growth of tourist infrastructure.