'Tanzania should learn from shuttle vans ban'
Crisis still lingers
By Arusha Times Correspondent
Tourism industry players have welcomed a solution reached by Tanzania and Kenya to end a row on tour operations and Kenya Airways frequencies but insisted that it should be a wakeup call to Tanzania to have a fully operational airline.
"What is wrong with us that we don't have a national airline?" asked Mathew Mollel, the managing director of Rainbow Shuttles, saying a fully operational national carrier would make the country competitive in tourism business.
He said a decision reached by the two countries' leaders to allow the shuttle vans from Arusha to access the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi and resumption of KQ frequencies to Tanzania was only "a first step" in tackling the crisis.
"To be competitive in this industry, we should have our own national airline and it should be fully operational, not limping as is the case with Air Tanzania at present", he said when reacting to the intervention of the two heads of state.
President Jakaya Kikwete and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya last Sunday ordered that Tanzanian tourist vehicles be granted unrestricted access to JKIA while KQ should resume its 42 flight frequencies to Tanzania a week as was the case before.
Kenya banned the Tanzanian-registered vehicles mainly originating here from accessing its Nairobi air travel hub in December last year and in what appears to be a retaliatory move last week the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) cut down frequencies of KQ flights to Tanzania to 14 from 42 a week.
But Mr. Mollel who was among tour operators who spearheaded the fight against the ban said the move should be seen as a temporary measure because such problems would recur as many tourists would still use Kenya en-route to Tanzania.
He explained that in order to effectively compete with Kenya, Tanzania must have its own national airline which can bring in tourists directly from major markets in the world or regional hubs like Nairobi.
He said the economy was generating millions of dollars a year from tourism enough to purchase modern jets and manage a fully operational airline, coupled with vast mineral resources and now huge natural gas reserves.
The tour operator also called on the relevant authorities to reduce the landing fees at the country's airports which he blamed for many international carriers avoiding the country in preference of landing in Nairobi.
According to recent statistics, airlines from overseas would save about $ 800 per flight by landing in Nairobi rather than the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA). A passenger would save $ 200 or more by skipping KIA which has high landing fees.
Amani Mustafa, the director of HAKI- Madini, a lobby group for small scale miners based in Arusha, lauded presidents Kikwete and Kenyatta for reaching a solution to the crisis which had brought the two neighbours at logger heads.
"It's good they did it in the spirit of the East African Community (EAC) Treaty to allow business to flow. But the other issues is that we (Tanzania) do not have our own carrier", he remarked.
He added that the (Tanzania) government was yet to tell the public what alternatives it had to fill the gap left by KQ had the ban on its many flights been still in force. He described the order to reduce the Kenyan carrier's frequency as politically motivated.
'This is a lesson. We might need to invest to develop our own carrier", he said and wondered why the EAC has remained quiet all along and could not intervene to reconcile the two parties.
A regional analyst based here Simon Mapolu said the issue of lifting the ban on Tanzanian vehicles to access JKIA and KQ to resume its frequencies did not need the intervention of the heads of states as it could have been sorted out by the responsible ministers.
He also wondered why the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators, (Tato), and their Kenyan counterparts, Kato, the two countries' tourist boards and the East African Business Council (EABC) have been quiet on the matter.
Edward Nkere, a human resources manager with the Palace Hotel, one of the leading hospitality outfits in Arusha hailed the two governments for lifting the ban on Arusha vehicles to access JKIA.