In spite of its natural beauty, the Tanzania tourism sector still remains relatively untapped, receiving approximately 600,000 visitors per annum compared with neighboring Kenya's million + visitors.
In the past, despite Tanzania's record of political stability, the unattractive investment climate discouraged foreign investment.
This is no longer the case and the Government's determination to create an environment conducive to private investment, combined with Tanzania's natural beauty and the potential of the tourism sector, have made Tanzania an extremely viable and appealing market for investment
"Investment opportunities are in all sub sectors of tourism in Tanzania, such as hotels construction, restaurants, air operations, ground operations to mention a few," says Saleh A. Pamba, Director of Tourism, for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
According to Lota Melamari, CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania (WCST), in its early stages tourism in the country was very mild, "because of the conservative approach [but] later on, as the government changed its political approach from socialism to a free market economy, investment in the protected areas was promoted and this opened up a new dimension for the development of tourism in Tanzania."
Since 1995, under the presidency of Benjamin Mkapa, the tourism industry has been increasing at a rate of around 10% per annum and today, most tourists come directly to Tanzania, with only 20 to 30% coming via Kenya.
Tourism plays a key role in the country's economy; it is one of the main sources of foreign exchange and it offers employment opportunities both directly (supporting around 198,557 direct jobs) and indirectly.
Tourism accounts for around 16% of the GDP and nearly 25% of total export earnings.
It is, therefore, seen as a vital industry in terms of job creation, poverty alleviation and foreign exchange earnings.
By the year 2010, the Government hopes to reach the target of one million tourists per year.
The impact of tourism to the national economy is expected to reach US$ 3,699.4 million by 2015.
However, while the Government is keen to develop and promote tourism in Tanzania, it is also committed to sustainable tourism in order to preserve its natural and cultural resources.
Therefore, the Government is looking to attract high-end tourism, as these types of tourists are less likely to spoil the culture and the natural environment.