New Zanzibar Tourism Minister Takes the Helm

A gleam of hope seems to have finally dawned on tourism in Zanzibar, as a seasoned industry player, Mr. Simai Mohammed Said, has been appointed as the new Minister of Tourism and Antiquities.

In a surprise reshuffle a fortnight ago, Zanzibar President, Dr Hussein Mwinyi, picked Mr. Simai to spearhead the archipelago’s mission of unlocking the full potential of tourism, offering a a lifeline to industry players, whose hopes are pinned on him.

Dr. Mwinyi apparently appointed Mr. Simai on the basis of competence, skill, dedication ,and noble roles he has played in Zanzibar’s tourism in his latest efforts to spur the industry to contribute substantially to the island’s clove-dependent economy.

The tourism specialist turned politician, Mr. Simai is regarded as an unsung inclusive tourism hero who has steered Zanzibar to become the best example of a beach and cultural tourism destination, pulling a crowd of tourists, thanks to the Sauti za Busara festival, among other initiatives.

A former board member of the Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors (ZATI) and Chairman of the famous Sauti za Busara festival, the young minister put Zanzibar at the top of the list of the finest beach and cultural tourism destinations in the world.

“Mr Simai is the right man, at the right moment ,and right regime. I knew him for so many years, no doubts his demeanor will shape the tourism industry in Zanzibar big time,” Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) CEO, Mr. Sirili Akko, told eTurboNews.

Mr. Akko said that the task ahead of Mr Simai is to strategically link Zanzibar island to the mainland of Tanzania so as to ride on Tanzania’s rich wildlife advantage to sell its beaches to tourists looking for a combined beach-bush package.

“Tourism is a new frontier to move Zanzibar out of poverty because it is a key employer and a sub-sector with a very long value chain.”

“Zanzibar Isles and Tanzania mainland have a very key synergy because we do not have the same products which means there is complementarity of the products,” Mr. Akko noted.

Indeed, if all works well, tourists after visiting Tanzania mainland’s wildlife-rich attractions would obviously go to Zanzibar isles for beach relaxation.

The Zanzibar archipelago, located in the Indian Ocean 15 miles off the coast of Tanzania, is a breathtaking spot to escape from the world.

Tourists enjoy clear turquoise-blue water, shallow sandbars perfect for wading, and many small nearly deserted islands virtually unvisited by holidaymakers.

Visitors can also explore the World Heritage site of Stone Town, Zanzibar City’s old quarter. Or they may just go from beach to beach between the tiny fishing villages—each one better than the next.

“I will strive to accelerate growth in the tourism industry,” Mr. Simai pledged, shortly after being sworn in before President Mwinyi.

Cementing close relationships between the government and tourism investors, spearheading improvement of the quality of hospitality services rendered to tourists, and enforcing the local content concept are but a few of his priorities.

“My greatest interest is to see tourists consuming the domestically produced products. For me this is [an] effective mechanism of transferring tourist dollars to the common folks in Zanzibar. You call it inclusive tourism,” Mr. Simai told eTurboNews in an exclusive interview.

The minister cited exploration of new tourism markets and promotion of new tourist attractions through diplomatic missions as among the key areas of his focus. Mr. Simai also plans to shift the focus from mass to quality tourism as he targets wealthy visitors.

Tourism is a significant source of income for Zanzibar being the largest source of foreign exchange, contributing about 27% of GDP and over 80% of foreign direct investment (FDI). In 2020, Zanzibar received 528,425 tourists who earned the country a total of $426 million in foreign exchange. Tourism accounted for 82.1% of FDI in Zanzibar whereby an average of 10 new hotels were being built each year at an average cost of $30 million each.

Data from the Hotel Association Zanzibar (HAZ) shows that the amount that each tourist spends in Zanzibar has also gone up from an average of $80 per day in 2015 to $206 in 2020.

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