Tanzania is one of the most picturesque countries on the African continent and home to magnificent tourist attractions such as the Serengeti National Park, Olduvai Gorge, and Mafia Island. As much as these and other world-famous tourist hot spots contribute towards the Tanzanian tourism industry, there are a host of other smaller industry players that are labouring away for the benefit of tourists and the local communities alike. Taking into consideration the increasingly big role women are playing in various industries, it is no surprise that many of the community-based tourism initiatives in Tanzania are also woman-led.
Women have a historical role in tourismWhether in the role of explorer, journalist, adventurer, community leader, or entrepreneur, women have helped shaped the international travel and tourism sector. Tourism, in all its diverse forms, is one of the most prolific industries both in Tanzania and across the world and provides viable income opportunities for women operating in both the formal and informal sectors of the market. According to the second edition of the Global Report on Women in Tourism by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the majority of employees within the tourism industry are female. This indicates a massive step forward in terms of gender equality and also points towards an increased drive among women eager to succeed in what some may describe as a rewarding yet cut-throat industry.
Arusha women aim to boost tourismA prime example of the significance of women in tourism can be seen right here in Arusha where 8 women from the Mulala Village have combined forces to form the Agape Women’s Group. ‘Agape’ means ‘love’ and that is exactly what these fierce women exude. The purpose of the group is to create a variety of tourism-related activities will benefit the local communities by alleviating poverty and by offering tourists various experiences that will complement tradition safari expeditions.
The tourism program includes a closer look at the various traditional activities of the women including crafting, making butter, cheese, and yoghurt, baking bread, and collecting and processing honey. A tour along the Marisha river bank will educate visitors on the variety of common medicinal plants that grow in the area while the Lemeka Hill Tour will afford visitors some of the most spectacular views imaginable of Mount Meru. The Agape women will also explain their various cultivation methods which is helping them significantly to improve their somewhat dire financial situation.
Combined efforts can boost local tourism significantlyDuring a recent dinner organized by the Tanzania Tourism Board at a local hotel, the British High Commissioner to Tanzania, Sarah Cooke stated: “Over 77,000 tourists form the UK visited Tanzania last year. We want more British to visit Tanzania.” Cooke went on to elaborate how, during the past three years of being on duty in the country, she has been left inspired by the various attractions she has had the pleasure of visiting. Dr Aloyce Nzuki echoed Cooke’s sentiments that tourism from the UK can be doubled with some effort by both the Tanzanian government, community initiatives such as those by the Agape Women’s Group, and private travel and tourism operators.
What increased tourism would mean to the communitiesWhile doubling the number of UK tourists that visit Tanzania every year would be of great benefit to the country as a whole, even only slightly increasing the tourist traffic to the rural areas surrounding cities like Arusha would benefit the communities substantially. A strong tourism industry can lead to increased stability and growth. Increased tourism to Tanzania will not only alleviate poverty through the creation of additional job opportunities but will also effectually lead to improved accessibility to water, food, and housing. While the task at hand may seem daunting to some others, such as the enterprising women from the Mulala Village, are seizing the opportunity to woo visitors and enrich their community.
Tourism has always been an important source of revenue for Tanzania and will undoubtedly continue to be so for the foreseeable future. By joining hands and working together towards a greater good, the broader tourism sector can successfully give itself the boost it both needs and deserves.
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Arusha Women Unite to Improve Tourism and Uplift Communities