THE government has signed a 340bn/- loan agreement with the World Bank (WB) through its International Development Association (IDA) to support Resilient Natural Resource Management for Tourism and Growth Project (REGROW).
Speaking before the signing ceremony in Dar es Salaam yesterday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning and the Paymaster General, Mr Doto James, said REGROW would open up the Southern circuit as a popular tourists destination, among others turning the area into an economic engine of growth and job creation.
He said REGROW aims at improving management of natural resources and tourism assets in priority areas of Southern Tanzania, as well as increasing access to alternative livelihood activities of the targeted communities.
“Despite Tanzania being rich in natural resources including biodiversity and wildlife, contribution of tourism industry to GDP is still low. The country’s current most visited tourism destination is the Northern circuit, which is now showing signs of being overstretched and has capacity limitations,” he pointed out.
Without going into details, Mr James said the development of the Southern Circuit would therefore help to unlock some challenges and double the number of tourist arrivals in the area in the next decade.
He added that Iringa being a hub for tourism industry in the Southern Circuit, financing resources would be provided to improve both its air and road infrastructures, adding: “Priority would be financing the construction of Iringa Airport and upgrading Iringa-Msembe road (105 km) to tarmac level. This will link the four National Parks and Game Reserve of Ruaha, Udzungwa, Mikumi and Selous.”
On her side, WB Country Director, Bella Bird, said REGROW sets vision for poverty reduction through conservation that turns development into a world-class example. She further said it equally strives to bring sustainable management of natural resources for the benefit of all Tanzanians.
“From WB, we see the Southern Circuit as an excellent choice of promoting tourism diversification, and fully support the vision of positioning it as an economic engine for growth and job creation,” added Ms Bird Presiding over the occasion, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Major General Gaudence Milanzi, said the project would be a landmark to promote tourism as an outstanding sector that contributes 17.2 per cent of GDP, estimated as 25 per cent of total exports, 650,000 direct jobs, and 1.2 million indirect jobs.