Zanzibar tourism officials are taking steps to bring more flights into Zanzibar International Airport, marking a continued emphasis on improving their tourism industry as a whole. The most recent available statistics show that tourism is gaining on the archipelago’s historic spice trade, once a resource of cloves for Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, and others. While cloves continue to generate 45% of Zanzibari GDP, tourism has shown huge growth over the last 30 years, now accounting for 20% of the local economy.
Proflight, a popular South Africa-based airline, recently added Tanzania and its near autonomous coastal state of Zanzibar to its regular flight plans. The trip from the rapidly expanding South African city of Lusaka to Zanzibar will only take seven hours, a fact that’s sure to stimulate the burgeoning tourism economies on both ends of the connecting service.
For Zanzibar, the boost to its tourist sector couldn’t come at a better time. Late 2013 and early 2014 saw public and governmental outcry following a number of attacks on Western tourists and locals. So-called “fundamentalists” perpetrated a number of acid attacks against women eschewing traditional Muslim garb and their children; they even burned down a popular tourist resort. Both are understandably worrying concerns for international tourists and locals alike.
As the government makes financial and political moves to bring improved air service from mainland Africa to the Zanzibar archipelago, and continues to make strides to improve cooperation between Stone Town and other popular tourist spots via upgraded marine navigation, they are likewise taking steps to ensure the safety of tourists. The Government of National Unity (GNU) has ordered a crackdown around the archipelago, including Unguja, one of the most troubled spots in an area otherwise known for warm sands and the gentle, salty breeze of the Indian Ocean. The GNU had safe-houses built on both Pemba and Unguja to protect victims from any further issues.
All in all, Zanzibar is taking more steps in the right direction, both with its crackdown on image- damaging crime and its opening of the international airport to more foreign airlines. Whether or not the moves will be enough to keep Zanzibari tourism on an upward trend, poised to finally overtake the spice trade, remains to be seen.