Tanzania cracks down on illegal tour companies

Saturday July 27 2013

Unlicensed tour operators in Tanzania have been blacklisted following an investigation that linked them to tax evasion and poaching. Photo/File

Tanzania has blacklisted several tour firms following an investigation that linked them to tax evasion and poaching, putting at risk the country’s $1.4 billion tourism industry.

The state said that it is investigating the possible connection between the illegal tour firms and the ongoing massive poaching of elephants in Tanzania’s national parks and game reserves.

The probe, which began in May, has so far identified nearly 100 unlicensed companies, which have denied the state about Tsh320 million ($200,000) in licence fees alone.

The Controller and Auditor General (CAG) Ludovick Utouh said that in 2012, the Treasury lost Tsh252.8 million ($158,000) in fees from dishonest tour operators.

“This is contrary to Regulation 4 of the Tourism (fees and charges) Regulations of 2009,” said Mr Utouh in his latest report.

He estimates that there are around 750 bogus or briefcase local and regional tour firms operating in Tanzania. Going by an annual licence fee of $2,000, it means that Treasury loses $1.5 million or Tsh2.4 billion annually.


The names of the blacklisted tour firms have already been presented to Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) headquarters in Arusha for action.

Pascal Shelutete, public relations manager at Tanapa, told The EastAfrican last week that they have circulated the names of the blacklisted firms to chief park wardens in all 15 national parks in the country, to deny the firms access to the parks.

Mr Shelutete said the wardens are expected to display the names of the unlicensed tour companies on their respective park gates.

“The exercise is complex, as we do not want to disappoint tourists who have booked safaris through these blacklisted tour companies,” he said.

Tourism is a key foreign exchange earner for Tanzania and a major contributor to the national economy. Tanzania is a home to nearly 1,050 tour companies, but it is estimated that only 300 firms are genuine.

Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (Tato), which has 302 members, commended the government for the move, saying illegal tour operators were causing “irreparable damage” to the reputation of Tanzania as a tourism destination.

Sirili Akko, executive officer of Tato, told The EastAfrican that the illegal tour companies are creating unfair competition for genuine operators.

Mr Akko said the state should prosecute those behind the bogus companies, adding that Tato would provide all necessary support. Sources say the crackdown on illegal tour operators is also targeting criminals who may have found refuge in the industry.

“There are crooks tarnishing the country’s image by blackmailing tourists. We want to get rid of this menace. It is in our best interest and for the growth of tourism,” the source said.

Last week, four tourists from Norway lost $12,000 in Arusha to an unscrupulous tour operator.

It took the intervention of the Tanzania Tourist Board, in collaboration with the police, to rescue the visitors.