- Nearly 3 million signatures have been gathered to rally against Maasai eviction by a web-based movement, Avaaz
- Ngorongoro is one of the most exotic tourism attractions in Tanzania
- Tourism is one of the top foreign currency earners in Tanzania
Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation area is one of the most impactful tourism attractions. It is with no doubt this particular area is one of the reasons Tanzania stands at number four in the global rank of most naturally beautiful countries on the planet, according to the natural beauty report done by Money.
A United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Heritage site and an iconic attraction, Ngorongoro puts Tanzania at a fruitful competitive advantage.
The iconic area, which sits in the Ngorongoro Crater, has managed to co-exist with human settlements executing subsistence farming. The Maasai pastoralists have been residing in the Crater since 1959 after being relocated from their ancestral lands by the British colonial governments.
Sadly, this reality faces a troubling saga that pins two vital ideas against each other— conservation and relevancy. The present existence of human population and livestock endangers wildlife and threatens the area’s fate at large.
The conservation area has been under concern for decades, and the recent growing fears of Maasai settlement evictions are fueling the two decades-old conflict, which has caught international attention.
In this sensitive case, numbers might be the great equalizer. The 2017 census points out that, in the respective area, the human population reached 98,183 compared to around 8,000 when the iconic conservation area was established in 1959 (The Citizen).
On the other hand, the number of livestock has also spiked eightfold, from around 16,100 to more than 805,000.
This natural wonder of Tanzania became a unique spot due to its co-habitation factor, with humans sharing the same habitat with wildlife with no grave consequence to nature. This factor is at stake and could spiral into a severe internal tension and tourism hurdle.
For the record, the Ngorongoro Crater has hosted the world’s famous and influential figures, including Prince William, Bill Clinton and the Queen of Denmark, and featured in an Oscar-winning movie, Out of Africa.
This unique factor is heralded by many people championing an amicable solution that restores wildlife safety and retains Maasai communities.
In 2021, President Samia Suluhu Hassan urged officials to handle the situation properly to ensure her administration did not infringe on the Maasai community’s rights.
Wildlife is one of the most profitable and foreign currency earners for Tanzania, and it continues to expand as more attractions develop.
According to information from The Citizen, more than 1.5 million tourists visit Tanzania annually, providing the country with more than $2.5 billion in revenue, which is near 17.6 per cent of GDP. Still, the pandemic has trimmed these numbers, as in 2020, it contributed at least 5.3 per cent (Statista).
There are more than 600,000 people directly involved in tourism activities, while more than one million others garner decent income from the sector.
It has only been a couple of months since Tanzania managed to resume its tourism pace entirely after being choked by the Covid-19 global shutdown, limiting tourist movement across the planet.
An internal conflict related to one of the world’s most famous, cherished and desired locations is the worst nightmare and a public relations (PR) suicide for the country in terms of tourist dollars.
Good PR attracts billions
In the age of information sharing within a microsecond, stiff competition, especially during uncertain times like these, bad news spreads fast. It might ruin any PR strategy available, particularly within tourism.
Consistent supply of conflicting and controversial news about the Ngorongoro puts Tanzania tourism at a crossroads as multiple interesting parties begin to take interest.
There have been interesting conversations over social media platform, Twitter, mainly about the fate of the matter.
Interested parties such as Media Centre for Resource and Information Advocacy (MECIRA) are urging government officials to intervene, citing problematic issues such as poor sanitation, lack of access to education services and risks of being mauled by wild animals of the crucial matters not addressed.
On the other hand, the government, via Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, noted that the government would launch into a dialogue with the Ngorongoro community people to find an amicable solution after gathering opinions from stakeholders.
The Prime Minister also put to rest all eviction fears circulated before community members in Ngorongoro in mid-February.
Political parties have waded into the matter, including ACT-Wazalendo, one of the influential opposition parties in Tanzania, calling for a dialogue between the government and the pastoralists living in the area (The Citizen).
Amidst the saga, which brings mixed emotions and division, there is a silver lining to be extracted. Tanzania has a chance to take advantage of this challenging situation by improving the image of tourism services across the nation to push visibility and recognition while outmatching her competitors.
Tanzania can leverage this situation through the consistent and continuous representation of historic and state-of-the-art tourism services. Tanzania can remain relevant to the market—which is flooding with fierce attractions established in Rwanda (arguably one of the most creative PR hotbeds in East Africa), Kenya and Uganda.
‘Tanzania unforgettable’ is one of the most interesting tags ever brought to the tourism industry in Tanzania and has been utilized as an excellent social media promotion to advertise various sites in Tanzania.
The government admitted that experts and stakeholders brought valid and serious concerns on the increased number of livestock kept by the communities in the area. This reality poses a significant challenge to the long-term sustainability of wildlife and tourism in the area.
With all these facts laid on the table, it is time for Tanzania to maximize its tourism potential to keep attracting billions in foreign currency.
Targeted press trips and media coverage could help the Ngorongoro conservation area retain its reputation and control any damage spilling within social media.
Inviting journalists and influencers on press trips to the area and exposing the true nature of the area and its uniqueness selling across advertising platforms benefits Tanzania as the situation begins taking shape towards resolution.
Doubling down on partnerships with tourism and travel agencies across the board is another strategic tool that Tanzania can use. Records show that travelers plan and personalize trips based on a package defined by travel agents.
This situation can serve as a reminder for Tanzania to pay close attention to its tourist attractions nationwide. Maintenance of onsite facilities and safety are crucial issues to address and keep Tanzania at the forefront of would-be tourists.