Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) has differed with some tourism stakeholders over claims that international tourist arrivals to the country have dropped due to the country’s 18% VAT.

Last year, the Tanzanian government introduced 18% VAT on tourism services, despite concerns that the move would make it an expensive holiday destination.

A TTB marketing official, Glads Tony, pointed out that despite the imposition of VAT, international visitor numbers increased last year compared with previous years.

He noted that international tourist arrivals to Tanzania grew to 1.2 million in 2016 up from 1.1 million in 2015.

“Despite the rising travel costs attributed to the 18% VAT on tourism services, the number of foreign tourists visiting the country is still high unlike in the past,” Tony explained. He urged local tour operators and hoteliers to market their products in tourist source markets for them to get more visitors.

But a tour operator, Ben Mongeta, urged the Tanzanian government to review the 18% VAT in a bid to bring down travel costs. He pointed out that when the government addressed the tax challenges, Tanzania would be a more competitive destination in the East African region.

Mongeta said Tanzania should follow Kenya’s lead. It waived the 16% VAT on tourism services last year after an outcry from tourism stakeholders.

A trader who depends on tourism, Emmanual Nehemiah, said: “Since the 18% VAT took effect, we are experiencing low number of customers compared to the previous years. Our businesses depend on tourism. It is our hope that the government will address the matter.”