Tanzania’s government, through the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) has established a special unit, the National Convention Bureau, which will be responsible for the organisation and promotion of conference tourism to the country.

TTB Chairman, Judge Thomas Mihayo, said the bureau would start operating as a department within TTB in collaboration with Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC).

He told reporters in Dar es Salaam over the weekend, that the collaboration aimed to ensure planned conferences, which are to be held in Tanzania, are well organised and thoroughly executed.  

Mihayo said the move formed part of the implementation of the TTB’s plans to target conferencing promotion, as well as to increase tourist arrivals into the country: “The meetings and events sector has been contributing up to about US$300 million per annum, therefore it’s crucial for Tanzania to grab this opportunity, given the fact that we have all the criteria,” reports IPPMedia.

Mihayo went on to point out that Tanzania enjoyed a number of things that made it attractive in conference tourism, citing, among others, the availability of conference halls, hotels, as well as peace and security, in addition to tourist attractions such as national parks.

IPPMedia further quoted Mihayo saying: “A single international convention can bring no fewer than 2 000 people, who will need to eat, have accommodation and tour, therefore their presence means revenue generation and increased number of tourists visiting our attractions.”

Expanding on this, Gillian Saunders, Special Adviser to South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, noted during a MICE Masterclass hosted by Africa Tourism Partners in Johannesburg, that conferencing had a positive knock-on effect for leisure tourism, as many visitors extended their stay, travelling further after an event.

Mihayo said in countries such as Malaysia and Australia, where tourism was a key sector, each had a bureau with responsibility to organise international conferences, and in Africa, there were two countries with such a bureau – South Africa and Rwanda – and now Tanzania. During this year’s Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa) Conference, Sisa Ntshona, CEO of South African Tourism, said SA was currently the number-one conferencing destination in Africa and the Middle East, however Dubai was catching up relatively quickly.

Adding to this, conference tourism could play a major role in combating issues around seasonality, as well as job creation, as Ntshona pointed out that jobs created through tourism might become more sustainable and continuous throughout the year if seasonality was addressed.

According to Saunders, Cape Town is ranked number-one in Africa in terms of a conference destination.

 “Deliberate efforts have been made by TTB, in collaboration with AICC, whereby several meetings were conducted with stakeholders over the establishment of the section,” he added.

Mihayo further emphasised that TTB would conduct stakeholder training in October, with the intention of promoting conferencing tourism and the opportunities that came with it.

Experts from South Africa and Rwanda are expected to attend and share their experience.