Tanzania introduced an exit duty on wood carvings a few weeks ago, raising an immediate storm of protest by carver cooperatives, safari operators, tourism association executives, and tourists themselves, who were suddenly faced with having to cough up more money just to take a carving home.
The implementing agency was to be the Tanzania Forest Services but in a much-applauded move, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, has now halted the move. “It is clear that the minister listened to the industry about the potential damage done to the sector should tourists be harassed by customs staff, and we all know those fellows would not leave out any opportunity like this to make a bit on the side. If the forest department has an issue over this, they should consult with the carver cooperatives but not try to mess around with tourists. We have enough issues with poaching and conservation and do not need another open festering sore in our side,” quipped a regular Arusha-based commentator when passing the information earlier in the afternoon.
Tanzania just got a huge boost earlier in the day when Qatar Airways announced the launch of five weekly flights to the holiday island of Zanzibar and when, in an unrelated development, the tit-for-tat spats between Tanzania and Kenya were for the time being resolved as aviation and tourism restrictions were lifted.
Relief it is then for tourists who can now take their souvenirs home, be picked and dropped off again at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.