PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE LOCKS HORNS WITH TOURISM INDUSTRY
Safari lodge and camps, tour and safari operators in Tanzania expressed their concern yesterday when it emerged that the parliamentary public accounts committee had reportedly ‘cancelled’ the current concession and royalty fees charged by TANAPA after claiming that it generated a huge loss for the country and waving the magic ‘corruption’ wand around.
Apparently the members of parliament sitting on the committee felt fit to assume powers of ‘directives’, something which commonly rests with the executive and not the legislators in such a case, and adding one more when demanding that TANAPA’s insurance contracts also be cancelled, again alleging corruption.
Operators have immediately denounced the ‘directive’ as illegal and un-constitutional, also pointing out that the last round of fee increases for park entrance and concession / royalty payments was arrived at after a lengthy consultative exercise between private and public sector, and that while TANAPA put proposals up for discussion the negotiated results were arrived at fairly and kept a balance between the need to generate income for the wildlife body and the effects on the cost of safaris which the market could absorb.
Said one regular and quite outspoken source in Arusha to this correspondent: ‘some of these parliamentarians really do not know much about how our sector works. They have made an alliance with a few TANAPA board members who tried to show off by claiming government was robbed of billions of revenue. The truth is that some of them are suspected to try for better remuneration for themselves which the present income structure does not allow. They think if they multiply fees they swim in money and can ‘eat’ but that shows no regard for what prices the market can tolerate. We do not live in isolation, we are not the only country offering safaris. Yes, Tanzania has a unique position and very good parks but if we become too expensive safari clients will go and visit other countries. You in Uganda should know, if you would suddenly charge 1.000 dollars for a gorilla permit, that your market will drop completely. Some in TANAPA wanted to raise the per night fees on royalties and concession fees to something like 50 US Dollars per tourist staying there, and that would have been a tenfold increase. Tariffs are reviewed at regular intervals, there is a mechanism in place for that, but increases must be gradual with all aspects of impact considered. Some of our parliamentarians are just seeking cheap popularity and wave the placard of corruption, corruption around for their own ends. Have they even consulted us, the private sector, when they talked this issue, not that I am aware of, to whatever they said is arbitrary and one-sided’.
Watch this space as the ‘battle for the fees’ unfolds.