Dar es Salaam. The tourism sector of Tanzania is set to be adversely affected by the ongoing war between European nations of Russia and Ukraine as the two countries seem to be the biggest sources of tourists who have been flocking both Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar recently.
The war in Ukraine has entered its sixth day since Russia launched a large-scale invasion on its neighbour on February 24, 2022. The world response towards the Russian aggression has seen the transcontinental country slapped with heavy and unprecedented sanctions that many analysts think will cripple its economy.
Perhaps the severest action taken against Russia so far is the removal of some Russian banks from SWIFT, a messaging service that connects financial institutions around the world. Founded in 1973 to replace the telex, SWIFT is now used by over 11,000 financial institutions to send secure messages and payment orders, according to an analysis by CNN.
SWIFT allows banks to send each other instructions on how to transfer funds across borders. With some Russian banks disconnected from the service which is without an alternative most Russian travellers, including those with plans to visit Tanzania, will most likely think twice before they embark on the journey and there is a likelihood of cancelling their plans altogether.
This will be a big blow to Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar and the entire tourism ecosystem of the two members of the United Republic.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the global economy, the tourism sector in Tanzania was the largest source of forex, the second contributor of gross domestic product (GDP) and was the third-largest contributor to employment.
In Zanzibar, with a population of 1.7 million, 60 percent of the government spending comes from the tourism sector and the sector provided 33,000 direct employment and 72,000 indirect employment.
In the first half of 2021, Russia was the leading market for the tourism market in Tanzania, accounting for 74,579 tourists, which is equal to 19.89 per cent of the total number of tourists who visited the country. In the same period, tourists from Ukraine were about 9,568 tourists, making-up 2.5 percent of the market.
In Zanzibar, which received 394,185 tourists in the same year, 17.9 percent were Russian nationals and 3.74 percent were Ukranians. This is a significant number of tourists from the region that in a few years had little tourism outbound to Tanzania.
It is not for nothing that during his recent monthly press briefing, Zanzibar President Dr Hussein Mwinyi described Russia and Ukraine as “important areas” when it comes to the semi-autonomous archipelago’s tourism sector. President Mwinyi made the observation while announcing his government’s plan to support over 900 Ukrainian nationals stranded in Zanzibar.
The Visa Global Travel Intentions Study of 2018 estimated that Russian tourists spent an average of $1,676 per person holiday more than Europeans who spent $1,174. The report also suggests that the average Russian tourist withdraws a total of $547 from ATMs during holiday compared to $346 by Europeans.
By disconnecting some Russian banks from SWIFT, you can imagine how the measure could affect Russians who are willing to travel abroad. This is the same case for Ukrainians who are currently displaced and the situation is still dire.
But it does not end there. The recent blanket flight ban on Russian planes announced by the European Union and other countries engaging with Russian aviation companies is like putting a final nail in the coffin of Russian travellers since it will intensify the difficulty of Russia to travel abroad.
Furthermore, the economic sanctions, especially financial sanctions waged by the United States, European Union and their allies to respond to the military aggression carried out by Russian forces in Ukraine may harm the world economy, especially to some countries in the Global South that have been recipients of thousands of tourists from Russia.