By Apolinari Tairo
Zanzibar is planning annual tourism exhibitions, cultural festivals and foreign investments promotions to attract international tourists and to increase the number of days they visitors spend on the Spice Isles.
The President of Zanzibar, Dr Ali Mohammed Shein, said his government is seeking to boost tourism earnings following the downturn in clove prices on the world market.
He said Zanzibar will host annual tourism exhibitions following the inaugural Zanzibar Tourism Show last week, which attracted over 150 tourism companies.
The annual show is part of a new trend of tourism business and service gatherings in East Africa, hoping to promote Zanzibar tourism and other African destinations sharing the Indian Ocean waters, wildlife and other safari attractions.
The target is to increase the number of tourists to Zanzibar from the current 376,000 to 500,000 by end of this year, the president said.
He added that his government will market tourism to attract hotel and service investments in the island, while attracting tourists to spend more days in Zanzibar, which is famous for beach and marine tourism.
Dr Shein said the average tourist stays had increased from six to eight days during the past five years, adding that conservation of key historical sites such as Stone Town and the Indian Ocean beaches was a key priority.
The president added that Zanzibar will develop a marine-based economy, banking on its rich resources from the Indian Ocean.
With a population of about 1.4 million people, the Zanzibar economy mostly depends on tourism and international trade. The Isles have been a target for high-class tourists, competing closely with the Vanilla Islands of Seychelles, Mauritius and the Maldives.
There are 473 hotels in Zanzibar with more than 8,721 rooms. About 5,000 more rooms are needed to cater for the growing number of tourists visiting the Island.
Cruise shipping is the other source of income to Zanzibar due to its geographical position and proximity to the Indian Ocean ports of Durban, Beira (Mozambique) and Mombasa. Zanzibar also competes with the other island destinations such as Seychelles, Reunion, Mauritius and the Comoros.