Arusha. A new classification criteria for hotels and restaurants in East Africa is under review. The review is aimed to standardize services offered by the accommodation facilities in the region.
“Standardisation will be extended to services offered by the tour operators and tour guides,” said Simon Kiarire, the principal tourism officer with the East African Community (EAC) secretariat.
He said here over the weekend that the classification criteria are currently in a place overlooked services offered by some industry players.
He said this time around, standardization would be applied across the tourism value chain in the region. Mr Kiraie revealed this here early this week when he was addressing a raft of tourism industry players.
That was during the launching of a training in grading and assessing the quality of accommodation, food and beverage services.
The two-month training is jointly coordinated by the EAC secretariat, the National College of Tourism (NCT) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.\
It attracted 14 participants from the private sector and 30 others from the public sector from within the EAC region.
“The goal is to build resiliency, competitiveness and a safe destination for tourists from across the globe by improving the quality of tourism services region wide,” he said.
Under the exercise, experts will be equipped with skills “that will enable them to become the EAC assessors capable of assessing hospitality establishments in all the partner states.”
The Common Classification Criteria for tourism accommodation establishments and restaurants is part of the EAC Tourism Marketing Strategy.
The strategy was approved by the EAC Sectoral Council on Tourism in July 2021. It was adopted by the Council of Ministers in November last year.
Available statistics indicate the region has so far classified a total of 906 hotels with Tanzania leading with 383 establishments.
Tanzania is followed by Kenya ( 215), Rwanda (176) Uganda (81) and 51 hospitality establishments in Burundi .
According to the tourism official, the 107 assessors that the entire region boasts were not enough to classify all tourism outfits.
“Most of the assessors were trained in 2009/10, quite a number of them have either left or cannot offer classification and assessment service,” he explained.
Officiating at the launching ceremony of the training, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr Francis Michael, said the training was more important now than ever before, given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Before the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2019, the tourism industry used to contribute $6.9 billion to the economies of the five EAC member states.
For Tanzania, that was equivalent to 17 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 25 percent of exports and 1.6 million direct and indirect jobs.
The then robust tourism industry in Tanzania sharply nosedived with the foreign arrivals dropping by 59 percent with the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020.
Since last year, the tourism sector in the country has been on an upward trend with the easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions and increasing arrivals.
Dr. Michael said the government intended to expand the avenue for the availability of assessors for the growth of the accommodation, food and beverage services to tally with the quality of the services.
Besides hospitality, the training will also focus on crosscutting sectors, including environment, occupational safety and health, labour, insurance, safety and security.
The NCT chief executive officer, Dr Shogo Sedoyeka, said the training was funded by part of the emergency support funds Tanzania raised to address the urgent health, humanitarian and economic costs of the pandemic.
She said the government had through the ministry assigned the college to carry out two phases of training, including upgrading the skills of 1,200 key players in the tourism value chain in eight regions in the Mainland.
The second phase involved the just launched two-month training of the tourism accommodation establishments and restaurants assessors and a one-month training of seven trainers of trainees from the public sector.