Arusha tourist meeting postponed

Tanzania's decision to postpone a top level meeting of Kenyan and Tanzania's tourist industry ministers and operators, which was set for the first week in February, has caused an immediate tough reaction in Kenya.

Tourist operators using Tanzanian licensed vehicles will no longer be allowed to work in Kenya. Above all this means that they will not be permitted to pick up passengers at Nairobi's Kenyatta international airport, where about 40 per cent of tourists destined for Tanzania touch down each year.

Kenya had relaxed some of the terms of the 1985 bilateral tourist agreement between the two countries, such as access to Kenyatta airport, and it was hoping that Tanzania would do the same.

The Arusha meeting was designed to iron out the continuing difficulties and necessary concessions but now that the meeting has been postponed Kenya has announced that it will return to a policy of strict enforcement. The cancellation of the February meeting (no date has yet been set for a new meeting) appears to have taken some tourist operators in Arusha by surprise.

They fear that the talks may have been hijacked by interests wanting to penalise the flourishing northern safari circuits in favour of tourist resorts more easily accessible via Dar es Salaam international airport. These include Dar es Salaam, the Tanga region, Zanzibar and the Selous game reserve.

With general elections set for October this year local political tensions in Tanzania are already surfacing. But rivalry between Kenya and Tanzania has also increased recently as the threat of terrorism is affecting tourist numbers on both sides of the border.