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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tanzania tourism: Faith-based Travel Perspective of Nyerere’s Canonisation (by Sirili Akko)

Below is a fascinating and excellent article about developing faith-based tourism in Tanzania. The author, Sirili Akko, lays out an excellent case for doing so.

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Article by: Sirili Akko

Despite the very high prospects in turning Tanzania into a gas driven economy in the near future, the fact that the service sector has far higher economic multiplier effect than sectors with consumption of non-renewable resources like gas and minerals should not be taken for granted.

Again, this is an important area, particularly developing new tourism products, as tourism is currently the booming sector globally next to none.

In Tanzania, for quite some time, the tourism sector has been mainly nature-based and as of recent Tanzania Tourist Board has been striving to unleash the big potential in cultural tourism hidden in endless cultural richness within the diversity of Tanzanian tribes and communities.

In this line another part which can be championed is equally faith-based tourism as the country is not short of shrines and values which are worth global attention without need of any major development as tourism products.

Apart from those, the news of involvement of Father of the Nation in faith particularly the process of his canonisation is another mileage in tourism. His charismatic leadership and outstanding contribution towards the liberation of Africa and selfless personal life are the important traits likely to attract the world to visit Tanzania and particularly Mara Region.

Despite the ongoing healthy debate on whether Mwalimu qualifies for sainthood or not, from tourism point of view my opinion is that the canonisation is long time overdue. I am not speaking on religious part in this context. I am not religious expert. Rather, I write from tourism economy point of view.

Like any other tourism line, faith tourism can have similar economic impacts in the other forms of tourism such as job creation, population growth and infrastructure development. Globally, the United Nations Tourism Organisation estimates that about 330 million religious tourists visit various religious sites for tourism reasons annually. In any standard, this is too significant a tourism niche to be overlooked.

Saudi Arabia, Israel and India are globally famous for faith-based tourism, in East Africa our neighbours Uganda have already tested the fruits of this genre and they are exploiting it aptly. The case, for example, of Martyrs Day in Uganda which is celebrated on every June 3 of the year owing to the contribution to the economy, the state has made the day public holiday to give a chance to millions of people both from within and outside Uganda to attend.

The deliberate efforts by President Yoweri Museveni to move hand in hand in complimenting the ongoing efforts of the Catholic Church in the process of canonising Mwalimu Nyerere shows, not only how the Ugandan leader holds independent Tanzania’s first head of state in high esteem, but also how he sees the bigger picture of its tremendous economic impact in connection to Uganda’s martyrs that attracts thousands of pilgrims.

Despite the fact that Mwalimu’s graveyard is already commanding an influx of people to Butiama, the truth is that his canonisation will not only be the biggest catalyst for infrastructural development but it is a latent potential drive for economic growth in the whole Great Lakes region with cross cutting effects and spill over benefits to global tourism value chain. It is worth to direct our efforts towards making use of the already existing man-made and faith-tourism products to complement the newly advertised Africa Natural wonders. Faith based tourism, if properly maximised, will definitely influence political stability in East Africa.

Again, there is endless tourism potential in our history. For instance, apart from other places if well published the commemoration of historical events like Maji Maji War, will definitely attract thousands of tourists specifically from Germany and other Western countries.

It is time to invest in faith and make economic use out of it. On top of that, our differences in faith should bind us together and translate into economic gains.
My expectation is that the ministry responsible will participate in this process for the very best tourism industry gain at large.
This will make an additional tourism product that is self-selling. From a tourism point of view, Tanzanians will have a lot to gain, either collectively or individually, regardless of their religious affiliations from Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s canonisation.

Article by: Sirili Akko

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