Natural Resources and Turism Minister Hamisi Kigwangalla
Dodoma — The government has rejected a plea by tourism stakeholders to extend the transition period for the switch from tendering to auctioning in the acquisition of hunting blocks.
Instead, it offered a grace period of one licence extension to all hunting operators to prepare themselves before the new system takes off.
Yesterday, Natural Resources and Tourism minister Hamisi Kigwangalla met with stakeholders, who asked for the extension of operation licence to at least five year.
The stakeholders argued that they have already invested billions of shillings under the old system, particularly in developing and handling of businesses and thus they needed a reasonable period to recover their money.
Tanzania Hunting Operators Association (Tahoa) chairman Michal Mantheakis said they welcomed the switch with an open heart, but required sufficient time to ensure that it would not negatively impact on other parties.
“We have invested heavily through conservation efforts, infrastructure, modern tour vehicles as well as putting up many other key facilities. We need time to recover our investments, or else, we will experience huge losses,” he said.
He noted that the hunting business was currently underperforming due to several technical factors, causing the government to get poor revenues from the key sub-sector.
“In 2016, the government raised VAT charges in the tourism sector, and unfortunately, foreign visitors refused to pay the new rates and so we, operators, incurred losses. However, the ban over importation of lions and elephant trophies in key foreign countries resulted in a significant reduction in the number of foreign hunters that come to Tanzania.”
He also warned of a looming bleak future for hunting tourism in Tanzania following the recent decision by the government to revoke all hunting blocks licences.
“Normally, January and February are key months for advertising and attracting tour safaris bookings from overseas. As I speak, we are supposed to jet off to Europe and the US to exhibit our hunting sites at international tourist platforms, but unfortunately, we are stuck because of the a note from Dallas Safari Club and Safari Club Convention that bans us from participating and exhibiting our products unless the parent ministry lifts the announcement,” he said.
Mr Frank Laizer, another stakeholder, asked the government to conduct a survey of all hunting blocks within the country to determine the reality on the ground in order to decide over changing the system.
He said the hunting business was becoming more and more complicated on a daily basis; that’s why some players had returned their blocs to the government.
Another stakeholder, Dr Leak Abdallah, decried poor cooperation between the ministry and hunting tourism players.
“The problem is that there are few experts on hunting tourism in Tanzania, which explains why the ministry seems to be little-informed,” he said.
He warned that the government could continue getting poor revenues from the sub-sector in the absence of serious interventions to overhaul and develop it.
Yet despite all the arguments and recommendations, Minister Kigwangalla said the government had no plan to reverse its stance over the matter.