EL AL Israel Airlines gave the Tanzanian tourism industry a fantastic Christmas and New Year’s present in mid-December when they flew in tourists from Tel Aviv, to Kilimanjaro International Airport.
There were more than 150 visitors on board the flight. The tourists from different backgrounds included 10 disabled people, and journalists from various Israeli mainstream media outlets such as Israel Today, Latest News, TV Channel II, TV Channel 10 and National Geographic.
Speaking to East African Business Week in Arusha, Ms. Ronit Hershkovitz, Managing Director of the Menelik Safari Company who coordinated the trip said the flights from Israel to Kilimanjaro will continue this year. The flight takes about five hours.
Starting from April 2014, El Al will be running four flights each month (once a week) in April, May, June, July, August, September and December between Tel-Aviv and Kilimanjaro. These are expected to bring more than 6000 tourists from Jerusalem every year.
The demand for passenger seats has been growing fast to service the lucrative Kilimanjaro route as the destination continues to attract new visitors to its world class attractions scattered all over Tanzania’s northern zone. The region has become a popular choice for conference organizers.
The route will offer Israeli visitors a one-stop service solution and give a big shot to the Tanzania travel and tourism sectors with the numbers of visitors expected to rise in the short term.
Ms. Ronit who also toured the Tanzania tourism wonderlands with the visiting tourists was optimistic that many Israelis will choose to come to Tanzania because of its authentic tourism products and services.
“I am extremely satisfied and I am sure all Israelis back home will be happy to come and see what I saw!” she told East African Business Week.
Besides flying tourists from the Holy Land, Ms. Ronit hinted that El Al intends to pick up Tanzanians or East African travellers heading for pilgrimages to Jerusalem.
“We have been experiencing a number of Tanzanians, as well as East Africans who travel to the Holy Land for pilgrimage. This is also a niche market for our direct flights,” she said.
Tanzania’s tourism industry contributes nearly 17% of GDP, far more than the minerals sector, which however is also set to increase in the near future.
On the sidelines of the launch, Willy Lyimo, Arusha Branch Manager for the Tanzania Tourist Board said for long periods,visitors who come into the country mostly came from the United States, the United Kingdom and other European countries hence the breakthrough in the Middle East was extremely important to the growing local tourism industry.
The tourists from Israel stayed in Tanzania for two weeks, with the handicapped persons taking the challenge of scaling the 5895 metre Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak on the continent,.
Geoffrey Tengeneza, the Principal Public Relations Officer with the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB). said the rest of the group visited Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park and Lake Manyara.
Lyimo spoke enthusiastically about the new developments, including the potential benefits in which the new route offers with numerous socio-economic benefits (revenues accrued through hotel’s services, car hire, curio shops and so on), arising from tourist’s businesses in Tanzania.
The Tanzanian northern zone boasts of Kilimanjaro, the highest freestanding mountain in Africa, the Serengeti plains and Ngorongoro both command a big number of visitors, as well as Arusha, Tarangire, Lake Manyara and Mkomazi parks. This includes the wealth of cultural insight and heritage in Tanzania’s prominent tribes, and the huge Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) based in Arusha.
Apart from the tourism industry Tanzania northern zone also has precious mineral resources (including Tanzanite, which is found nowhere else in the world), thousands of livestock, a robust horticulture industry that adds, value to the quality of life of the people and revenues in the Tanzania national cake.
Lyimo explained that there are clear key indicators, to be realized, such as: increase of flight frequencies, flexibility for travellers (broaden traveller’s choice), reduce the average travel and transition time, helping to market the route’s attractions, connect with park’s air crafts at ease, spur growth of businesses among East Africa’s member states, increase competitiveness which will point to lower tariffs and improved services.
He underscored the importance that El Al , which is Israel’s national carrier, will provide especially linking travellers from the Middle East and other new markets that the Tanzania Tourist Board is trying to reach out to popularize the destination. Lyimo is hopeful about the growth of the tourism industry and he sees the entry of El Al as an indication that the Tanzania tourism is primed to benefit from global tourism travellers from major tourist markets around the world.