Tanzania Travel Guide

Travel TeamRyan Gray
By Travel Team Ryan Gray  - Travel Guide Manager 27 Min Read

Famed for being home to Africa’s highest point, the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania’s tourism industry also looks set to peak thanks to the work of numerous associations.


Tanzania – home to Mount Kilimanjaro and the highest point in Africa. Mostly set 600 feet above sea level, the East African country plays host to some of the continent’s most spectacular scenery, from expansive plains and plateaus to beautiful offshore islands and the enormous Lake Victoria in the north.   

The equatorial nation became sovereign in 1964 through the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, the former covering 99 percent of the combined territories’ landmass and the latter still possessing a separate governmental administration.   

Tanzania’s travel and tourism market is becoming increasingly important to the nation’s economy. The World Travel & Tourism Council reports that the industry contributed $1.92 billion to the country’s finances last year, a figure set to rise to more than $2.1 billion in 2018. This projected rise of 9.4 percent is the second largest in the world.   

Beyond the stunning scenic offering, wildlife and safari form a vital component of the country’s tourism sector, with many well-established operators running trips via land, water and air – some you will see later on in this guide.   

In terms of city life, the major cultural and economic hub Dar es Salaam will not disappoint with its array of food, drink and landmark attractions. Off the coast, the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba are popular choices for visitors, while Mafia Island is emerging as something of a hidden gem.


Formed in 2004, the Hotel Association of Tanzania (HAT) originated from the Hotel Keepers Association of Tanzania which started in the 1970s.   

“The initial vision at that point, like many other private sector association forming at the time, was to have an association that will help private sector navigate this new relationship between them and public sector in the industry,” remarks Nura Lisa Karamagi, current CEO of HAT. “There were several gaps in the laws and missing institutions, therefore the main objective was to make sure that the private sector had a say in the type of business environment that was being set.”  

How has the organisation advanced since and what lies ahead for Tanzania? Karamagi answers our questions.


Since inception, how has HAT developed and progressed in terms of its key objectives and the messages it tries to get across?  

NK: We promote and protect the interests of registered accommodation establishments through lobbying and advocating for laws, regulations and processes that will have positive implication on private sector, public sector and the Tanzanian economy.   

The message we try to get across with government is that we are partners and need to work together in creating a viable business environment and to in assure the sustainability of the tourism industry as a whole. The Hotels Association of Tanzania, with its members, has always worked in partnership with our ministry and its respective authorities, and all other tourism associations and stakeholders to promote, strengthen and protect our industry to be not only financial, socially sustainable, but now also environmentally sustainable. Our ultimate objective is to make the Tanzanian hospitality industry competitive globally and viable for the investors, employers, employees, local communities, suppliers and the Government.  

How would you say Tanzania has developed in recent years as a business travel hub and what are the key reasons behind its growing appeal?  

NK: There has been a growth in the number of familiar and revered hotel chains such as Southern Sun, Ramada, Radisson Blu, Hyatt, Marriot, Four Points, Holiday Inn to name a few. Tanzania has several diverse investment appeals and saw a lot of businesses coming in the country. Of late there have been growing challenges in the business community, and there has been a slump, however, the private sector and government are working towards rectifying this.  

Recently the government, through its Tourism Board, has formed a conferencing bureau. Tanzania is a bit late in tapping into this market, however, the Ministry of Tourism has focused on diversifying from Tanzania’s typical wildlife tourism and travel and is investing in other products and regions including MICE tourism. The government officially made Dodoma the new capital a few days ago and we are certain to see businesses grow there.  

Taking a more general industry stance, how would you evaluate the tourism sector in Tanzania now compared to its condition when HAT began?  

NK: The tourism sector has grown the past 14 years and is growing, but again, especially at present, perhaps not at the pace that it potentially has. Part of the challenge has been that focus on tourism has been placed in the northern regions of the country. Second has been the seasonality of the industry. However, as mentioned, the government has recognised this limitation and is investing in diversifying and encouraging investments for a variety of products across the country, focusing also on promotion of the development of the coastline that Tanzania has.  

The government has also opened up three new parks in the western part of the country and Urithi Festival – a month long celebration of Tanzania’s heritage – launched for the first time this year, and will be held every September, showcasing different aspects of the Tanzanian heritage throughout the country.  

If we were to speak again in three-five year’s time, what progress and development would you hope and expect to be able to report back?  

NK: As an association we want to grow, because representation matters in our engagements with government. It is our aim that in five years’ time we will be representing not only all diverse products in the hospitality sector but also have a footprint in all the regions. It’s my hope that at that time some of the most pressing challenges facing the industry currently will have been resolved and we will be at a place working more with projects developing the sub sector.  

In terms of the business travel industry, I expect that the conferencing bureau with the private sector partnership will have grown to see a city like Arusha become a conferencing hub again, and having succeeded in also sustaining a new hub in Dar es Salaam and other areas. It may take a bit more than five years for Tanzania businesses to be growing as in previous years, however I am confident that businesses will bounce back and investments will grow in time again. Tanzania still has untapped and unlimited potential.  


Tanzania’s economy is extremely reliant on agricultural production, with 40 percent of the country’s workforce employed in the industry, which in turn contributes a similar proportion to overall GDP.   

However, other industries like mining are also significant – gold, for instance, is the nation’s most valuable export, while several multinational companies have been involved in onshore and offshore oil exploration.   

“The seriousness the government has put into curbing corruption in the country has made Tanzania a cheaper destination compared to previously, and this has attracted investment,” comments the Tanzania Air Operators Association.   

“And one could say that the government’s drive to root out vice has also attracted more visitors in the country. The ministry responsible for tourism is taking decisive measures to ensure that the tourist attractions, especially the national parks and game reserves, continue to be attractive by dealing with poachers appropriately.”  

In terms of tourist numbers, Kenya provides the majority of the approximately 1.3 million annual visitors. Tanzania is a popular option for Kenyans, who often visit on day trips by crossing the border. 


A historically sparse human population has resulted in Tanzania becoming home to a tremendous variation of wildlife, one of the main draws for visitors. It is thought that around 350 species of mammal, 130 species of amphibian and 275 species of reptile can be found in the country – in all around four million animals live here.   

National parks and conservation areas are numerous, with Serengeti, Tarangire Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara among the most popular destinations for those on the lookout for elephants, hippos, rhinos, lions and a huge variety of bird species.   

Another heavily marketed activity is snorkelling and diving. The Tanzanian government is eager to encourage tourists to its coastline, the luxurious beaches and coral reefs being a particular highlight.   

The country’s food scene is varied depending on where you are in the country. Away from the coast you are more likely to find restaurants just serving Tanzanian staples such as meat stews, chicken, green bananas and ugail, a type of maize.   

Dar es Salaam, located on the coast, is more cosmopolitan with a choice of local and international cuisines. Unsurprisingly seafood is a major part of the city’s food offering, with Swahili fish-based curry also a favourite. The abundance of tropical fruit on offer also makes for delicious dishes and drinks. 


Tanzania Society of Travel Agents (TASOTA) was registered under the Registrar of Societies in October, 1980. The society was formed with sole intention of bringing under one umbrella all IATA Accredited Travel Agents in Tanzania and to speak with one voice with the concerned authorities. Moustafa Khataw is TASOTA’s Chariman, and took time out to answer our questions.   

Since inception, how has TASOTA developed and progressed in terms of its key objectives and the messages it tries to get across?

Moustafa Khataw (MK): TASOTA is 38 years old now and has grown to a sizeable organisation with a membership of 44 travel agents – both IATA Accredited and non-IATA. TASOTA organises regular events for its members with a view of empowering them to execute their duties as travel agents more effectively. We also provide a platform for our members to engage with various governments institutions with a view to addressing challenging matters pertaining to our industry.  

To this end, how would you say Tanzania has developed in recent years as a business travel hub and what are the key reasons behind its growing appeal?  

MK: Many international airlines, namely Fly Dubai, Qatar Airways, Oman Air and Ethiopian now operate double frequencies and also pass through Zanzibar. With the revival of our national carrier, Air Tanzania Company Ltd (ATCL), having acquired recently three Bombardier Q-400s and a Boeing Dreamliner – 787-800, the future is very bright for tourism. ATCL is planning to start regional routes and Julius Nyerere International Airport Terminal III is scheduled to open mid-2019 will give impetus to air travel and also increase influx of tourists.  

Taking a more general industry stance, how would you evaluate the tourism sector in Tanzania now compared to its condition when TASOTA began?

MK: Tanzania tourism has grown tremendously over the last 10 years and the aim of the fifth phase government is to reach 2.5 million tourist arrivals by year 2020, up from the 1.3 million arrivals seen in 2017. A very ambitious task but with the current drive of the new government and involvement of Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB), this target is achievable. Infrastructure in terms of roads, airports is in the offing and will contribute substantially to the growth of GDP. The tourism industry employs a large chunk of the labour market in Tanzania.  

What is in store over the course of 2018 and beyond regarding new businesses and tourist functions?

MK: The capital city is Dodoma where the seat of the government and parliament are based. Our President is scheduled to relocate there next year which will complete the full cabinet. New opportunities will come up in Dodoma where the government is planning to enhance its airport to international level so that international flights can land there directly.  

The business capital, Dar es Salaam, has large scale conference facilities available and the ambition is to make it a destination of choice for MICE and a gateway to the Zanzibar islands, as well as a hub for safari expeditions.  

Looking forward, if we were to speak again in three-five years’ time, what progress and development would you hope and expect to be able to report back?

MK: Our vision is to grow TASOTA to international levels wherein its members will be privileged to access all tools and resources from its secretariat. We are revamping our website to make it user friendly. We envisage having our own offices which will act as resource centre as well as provide training facilities to new entrants in the market.  

Business travel will expand and according to IATA statistics, growth in air travel for Africa is predicted at a rate of at least three percent. This means Tanzania will benefit once it has made in depth penetration of ATCL flights to its neighbouring landlocked countries.  


“More than almost any other destination, Tanzania is the land of safaris”

Lonely Planet 


Sopa Lodges 

With three lodging sites in the Serengeti, Tarangire and Ngorongoro, Sopa Lodges is another operator on the doorstep of Tanzania’s natural beauty. The Serengeti site overlooking the national park allows its guests to experience magnificent sights and enjoy interaction with the land and animals difficult to find elsewhere.  

Serena Hotels 

With a portfolio spanning five African countries, Serena Hotels has 10 resort, camp, lodge and hotel sites in Tanzania alone. In Dar es Salaam, the Serena Hotel is located in the heart of the city centre’s business district, a perfect location for travelling businesspeople. The five-star venue offers a garden oasis just off the beachfront and bustling markets, boutiques and restaurants. Those seeking some of the outdoors should consider the Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge, set in stunning national park and wildlife surroundings.  

Best Western CBD Hotel  

Food in Dar es Salaam  

The Beach Club  

Karambezi Café  

Addis in Dar


Serengeti National Park  

Tarangire National Park  

Ngorongoro Conservation Area 

Tour & activity operators  

Firelight Safaris Tanzania  

Firelight has been providing luxury safari tours in Tanzania since 1989 and has built up a strong network of camps in this time. Whether exploring the Ngorongoro Crater, where 30,000 animals reside, or flying over the Serengeti Plains, Firelight Safaris will be able to cater to your requirements.   

The Company was founded by Belinda and Tom Lithgow, the former from the UK and in charge of the day-to-day running of operations.  

Coastal Aviation  

Those seeking a flying safari experience should consider booking with Coast Aviation. The firm has been operating in the country for 30 years, specialising in accessing the remotest of areas where road transport cannot reach. Today it flies to around 100 airstrips around Tanzania.  

Alfazulu Travel & Tours 

Earthlife Expeditions


The Tanzania Air Operators Association (TAOA) was established with a mission to develop and expand a sustainable aviation industry, geared towards safety, efficiency and economic prosperity.   

“In mid-2002, 11 Tanzanian registered air operators considered the tremendous aviation potential which exists in Tanzania and recognised the need for national, regional and international cooperation,” says Laurence Miku Paul, Executive Secretary of TAOA. “They took the appropriate measures of forming an association which was formally registered with the Registrar of Societies of Tanzania on the 10 October, 2002.”  

The TAOA’s goal is, ultimately, to advocate for a conducive environment to enable its members’ business to flourish.   

Since inception, how has TAOA developed and progressed in terms of its key objectives and the messages it tries to get across?

Laurence Miku Paul (LMP): The primary purpose of TAOA is to facilitate, encourage and assist its members in the development of a legal and responsible aviation industry in Tanzania with due consideration of safety, efficiency, regularity and economical implications. In order to achieve its primary purpose, TAOA is working very closely with Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) and Tanzania Airports Authority (TAA). Today, TAOA is a member of airports (stations) and national facilitation and security committees and is able to voice air operators’ concerns in these areas.  

How would you say Tanzania has developed in recent years as a business travel hub and what are the key reasons behind its growing appeal?

LMP: In terms of the industrialisation drive being undertaken by the Fifth Phase Government of Tanzania, we are facilitating investment opportunities in the aviation industry. TAOA maximises the contribution of the aviation industry to the economic development of the country by promoting its members to pay taxes. TAOA, under the umbrella of the Tourism Confederation of Tanzania, sees the tourism sector having a role to play in the economic sustainability and the Government rightly treats it as a serious economic agent and catalyst.  

What is in store for Tanzania over the course of 2018 and beyond to continue the good work already commenced and to enhance its reputation as a tourism and business travel hub further in the future?

LMP: As the Tanzania Government Headquarters is now formally moving to Dodoma, we expect that most of the activities like construction of buildings will be at the new city of Dodoma and a lot of investments will mostly be directed there. Most embassies in Tanzania have been given plots to build their offices and residences in Dodoma and the move is expected to increase construction businesses when the embassies decide to build in Dodoma.  

If we were to speak again in three-five year’s time, what progress and development would you hope and expect to be able to report back?

LMP: In five years, a lot will have happened in this country in terms of development considering the great attention the government has given in many areas of development such as construction, tourism, mining and agriculture. Within five years, construction of a new international airport in Dodoma and the rehabilitation of seven major domestic airports will have been completed and air movements to these airports will increase activities of TAOA members. The business travel in Tanzania will be smoother as travellers will be able to fly to every region of the country any time of the day and night, unlike now when you can only fly to a few regions during the night.  


Mtoni Palace Ruins

“Overlooking the coast, away from the heat and hustle of Zanzibar Town, Mtoni Palace was built for Sultan Seyyid Said in 1828. It was home to the sultan’s only legitimate wife, many secondary wives and hundreds of children. According to contemporary descriptions, it was a beautiful building with a balconied exterior and a large garden courtyard complete with peacocks and gazelles” – Lonely Planet 

Lake Victoria

“Tanzania’s half of Africa’s largest lake sees few visitors, but the region holds many attractions for those with a bent for the offbeat and a desire to immerse themselves in the rhythms of local life beyond the tourist trail”  
– Lonely Planet  

Mafia Island

“While Zanzibar has become a popular tourist resort, Mafia Island lying only 160 kilometres south, remains virtually unknown. The Mafia Archipelago is scattered over the Indian Ocean 21 kilometres off the Rufiji River Delta in central Tanzania. The largest of a score of islands, atolls and tidal sandbars, Mafia itself is approximately 50 kilometres long by 15 kilometres across, and is surrounded by a barrier reef teeming with marine life” – Mafia Island 

Mount Kilimanjaro

“At 5,895 metres, Kilimanjaro is the highest point in Africa. This volcanic massif stands in splendid isolation above the surrounding plains, with its snowy peak looming over the savannah. The mountain is encircled by mountain forest. Numerous mammals, many of them endangered species, live in the park” – UNESCO 

From roads, seaports, airfields and railways to carrying people and loads on animals, there are many ways to navigate Tanzania’s vast and varied terrain.   

Major highways tend to be found along the coastal resorts, with the majority of inland roads unpaved. Two major rail lines bisect the country between Dar es Salaam and Kigoma and Tanga and Moshi, while another route connects Dar es Salaam to the Zambian border. For those with plenty of time on their hands, train travel is recommended given the views the routes offer of the countryside and wildlife.   

Air Tanzania and other airlines provide domestic and international services, with several airports scattered around the country. Unsurprisingly Dar es Salaam is the busiest hub with a current capacity to handle 2.5 million passengers a year, a figure set to rise to six million with the completion of a new terminal building in June 2019. After incurring several delays, the $300 million project will provided a vital boost and reduce reliance on neighbouring Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to supply tourists.   

Taxis and dalla-dallas (minibuses) are common ways of getting around locally, with fixed prices ensuring customers know what they are paying before travelling. Renting cars with drivers is another popular choice for visitors. 

Read Issue 15 of Outlook Travel Magazine
By Ryan Gray Travel Guide Manager
Travel Guide Project Manager