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Italy at the heart of Zanzibar’s tourism boom

Unguja. Zanzibar is experiencing an unprecedented boom in tourism, with July’s schedule showing over 409 flights landing on the island this month, far surpassing last year’s numbers.

Leading this surge are visitors from Italy, with data from last year revealing that 86,000 passengers traveled from Italy to Zanzibar, establishing it as a primary source of tourism.

Following closely were France, Germany, and the UK, with 72,000, 57,800, and 51,500 tourists respectively. Out of the 47 chartered flights to Zanzibar in July 2023, 25 originated from Italy.

Several factors contribute to this trend. Tanzania’s ambassador to Italy, Mahmoud Thabit Kombo, highlighted three primary reasons for the significant increase in Italian tourism.

Read: Zanzibar ready for high tourist season, but challenges loom

Speaking to The Citizen, he attributed the rise to President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s ‘Royal Tour,’ which revitalized Tanzania and Zanzibar as premier destinations for the Italian market.

"The supportive policies and conducive environment fostered by our beloved President have been instrumental in this growth," said Ambassador Kombo, emphasizing the government's role in boosting tourism.

Additionally, he noted that the Tanzanian embassy in Rome has facilitated easier access to Tanzania through streamlined electronic visa processes. The introduction of an online electronic visa approval system at the Rome Consular Offices has expedited visa acquisition and approval for Italian travelers.

"Tourist visas are now swiftly approved, enhancing our competitive edge against other destinations," explained Ambassador Kombo.

According to Mr. Kombo, increased flight connectivity and frequency between Italy and Zanzibar, particularly through direct chartered flights by Neos, have been pivotal. Effective from June 26, new flight schedules have significantly increased direct flights from major Italian cities such as Milan, Malpensa, Verona, Rome Fiumicino, and Naples.

Flights from Milan operate on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, while those from Rome fly on Mondays and Tuesdays, and from Verona every Saturday.

Antonella Ballestra from Neos Airlines expects to offer six direct flights per week in July, bringing approximately 330 passengers per flight to Zanzibar. This totals to around 2,000 tourists weekly and 8,000 monthly, with over 80,000 visitors anticipated in Zanzibar in 2024.

Read: Zanzibar tourist arrivals soar by 16.4 percent in 2023

Hafsa Mbamba, Executive Secretary of the Zanzibar Commission for Tourism, concurs with this assessment. "Italy has become our top tourist market," she affirmed.

"Italians are drawn to our pristine beaches, welcoming local culture, and rich heritage. We are collaborating closely with our embassy in Rome to sustain this growth," she added.

Ms. Mbamba highlighted Italy's pioneering role in investing in Zanzibar’s tourism industry and stressed the importance of initiatives that focus on product diversification and sustainable tourism in the Italian market.

Javed Jafferji, a founding member of the Hotel Association of Zanzibar (HAZ), cited Italian investments amounting to approximately €2 billion, as per official figures from ZIPA and BoT, in Tanzania's tourism and hospitality industry.

"This commitment underscores the significant role Italian investments play in Zanzibar's economic development," Jafferji noted, pointing out the positive economic trend driven by Italian businesses in Zanzibar.

Zanzibar's tourism landscape is set to reach new heights with the opening of Cocoon Collection’s luxury property on Bawe Island. This development promises to elevate the island’s status as a five-star tourist destination.

Italian investor Andrea Azzola expressed enthusiasm about the project, stating, "We are bringing luxury and new tourist activities to Zanzibar. This property will set a new benchmark for elegance and comfort in the region."

The new resort aligns with Cocoon Collection's commitment to developing high-end tourism facilities that integrate sustainably with the local culture and environment, anticipated to attract high-profile visitors and bolster the local economy.

As Zanzibar continues to attract more travelers, its tourism sector is poised for substantial growth, solidifying its position as a top-tier global destination.

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