The Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors (Zati) said that a skilled workforce would help Zanzibar compete against other islands in the Indian Ocean like Seychelles and Mauritius, and boost sector earnings.
“We need more co-operation between the government and private sector to support our investment,” said Zati chairman Seif Miskry, adding that some 24 tourist hotels on the island are already providing in-house training to young job seekers.
“Our aim is to train a large number of people to provide quality tourist and hospitality services,” he said. “We are targeting to have more people at diploma and degree levels.”
The association hopes to attract 500,000 tourists in the next three years. Last year, some 300,000 tourists visited the island.
The tourism industry in both Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar has been depending on foreign skilled workers. There are about 3,500 trained skilled workers in hotels, transport and ticket booking companies in Tanzania, mostly in managerial posts.
According to the chief executive Hotels Association of Tanzania Nura-Lisa Karamagi, the skills gap is a threat to tourism.
More than a million guests visit the country annually, earning Tanzania about $2.05 billion, the equivalent of 17.6 per cent of GDP.
Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism Dr Alloyce Nzuki said the country attracted 1.3 million tourists in 2016 compared with 1.1 million in 2015 which is an increase of 12 per cent.
The country is facing a shortage of over 30,000 hotel beds to accommodate the demand. Only 38,000 hotel beds are currently available against a demand of 70,000.
Zanzibar is famous for its historical culture, architecture and beaches, attracting mainly high-end tourists whom it competes closely with Vanilla Islands made up of Seychelles, Mauritius and Maldives.
Cruise ships are a key source of income, made possible by the island’s proximity to the ports of Durban (South Africa), Beira (Mozambique) and Mombasa on the Kenyan Coast.