Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cultural Tourism Model: Mto wa Mbu

The Mto wa Mbu Cultural Tourism Program is alive and well, as I noted in an earlier blog post. Now comes the news that the Program has been selected as a model for other such programs in Tanzania. I offer my congratulations, as a friend of the Program.

Here is the report, in the Arusha Times:

By Arusha Times Correspondent

A cultural tourism project at Mto wa Mbu in Arusha region has been picked to serve as a model for others initiated in various parts of the country.

The project has been attracting an increased number of visitors and revenues over the past seven year, generating some Sh63.6 million in 2007 when it hosted 4,094 tourists.

Mto wa Mbu, a fast growing township at the foot of the Great Rift Valley escarpment, is a gateway to the most famous tourist sites in northernTanzania.

The site is among 27 projects being implemented under the Cultural Tourism Programme (CTP) which aims to tap the potential of cultural relics in the country for tourism.

The programme was launched in 1997 with the support of a Netherlands organisation (SNV) which managed it until 2002 when it was taken over by the Government through the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB).

Mary Lwoga, the programme coordinator said the Mto wa Mbu cultural tourism enterprises would be propelled to become a leading site because of its prime location and cultural diversity of the area.

She told reporters that the area has been attracting more tourists whose number has more than tripled from 1,116 in 2002 to 4,094 in 2007.

She said the Government was keen to give a bigger push to cultural tourism because it has a big potential to boost the broader tourism industry, now the leading sector in foreign exchange earnings.

"Cultural tourism is much broader than historical sites and curio shops. In this case, visitors have to be exposed the typical lifestyles of the local communities; their traditional food, dressing, dances and so on and so forth" she said.

She added that Tanzania is endowed with the rich cultural heritage of more than 120 ethnic groups and that since its launching, the programme is already attracting about 30,000 foreign tourists a year to its 27 sites.

"CTP provides visitors with authentic cultural experiences that combine nature, scenery, folklore, ceremonies, dances, rituals, tales, art, handicrafts and hospitality and give a unique insight into their way of life," she pointed out.

Many of the projects which have taken off so far are in the northern tourist circuit extending from Lushoto in Tanga region, through Kilimanjaro and Arusha regions to Babati and Hanang in Manyara.

Outside the northern circuit similar cultural tourism projects are at Mbeya and Rungwe in the southern highlands and Pangani on the coast.

Mto wa Mbu was one of the early cultural heritage projects to be established under the programme, now based at the Natural History Museum premises in Arusha. ends

Revenue from the tourist visits is mainly used to empower women in the villages, promote education and protect the environment.

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