New grading rules for hotels in East Africa coming soon

By Zephania Ubwani

Arusha. A new classification criteria for hotels and restaurants in East Africa is under review. The review aims to standardize the services offered by accommodation establishments in the region.

“Standardization will be extended to services offered by tour operators and tourist guides,” said Simon Kiarire, the chief tourism officer at the East African Community (EAC) secretariat.

He said here over the weekend that the classification criteria currently in place overlooked services offered by certain industry players.

He said this time the standardization would be applied across the entire tourism value chain in the region. Mr Kiraie revealed it here earlier this week as he addressed a host of tourism industry players.

This was during the launch of a training course on rating and evaluating the quality of accommodation, catering and catering services.

The two-month training is jointly coordinated by the EAC Secretariat, the National College of Tourism (NCT) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.

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It attracted 14 participants from the private sector and another 30 from the public sector from the EAC region.

“The goal is to build resilience, competitiveness and a safe destination for tourists from around the world by improving the quality of tourism services across the region,” he said.

As part of this exercise, the experts will be equipped with skills “that will enable them to become the EAC assessors capable of assessing hotel establishments in all the partner states”.

Common classification criteria for tourist accommodation establishments and restaurants are part of the EAC’s tourism marketing strategy.

The strategy was endorsed by the EAC Tourism Sector Council in July 2021. It was adopted by the Council of Ministers in November last year.

Available statistics indicate that the region has so far ranked a total of 906 hotels with Tanzania leading with 383 establishments.

Tanzania is followed by Kenya (215), Rwanda (176) Uganda (81) and 51 hotel establishments in Burundi.

According to the tourism official, the 107 evaluators in the whole region were not enough to classify all tourist outfits.

“Most of the assessors were trained in 2009/10, a good number of them left or cannot offer classification and assessment service,” he explained.

Officiating at the launch ceremony of the training, the ministry’s permanent secretary, Dr Francis Michael, said the training was more important than ever given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2019, the tourism industry contributed $6.9 billion to the economies of the five EAC member states.

For Tanzania, this was equivalent to 17% of gross domestic product (GDP), 25% of exports and 1.6 million direct and indirect jobs.

Tanzania’s then-robust tourism industry plunged sharply, with foreign arrivals dropping 59% with the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020.

Since last year, the tourism sector in the country has been on an upward trend with the easing of travel restrictions related to Covid-19 and the increase in arrivals.

Dr Michael said the government intended to widen the availability of assessors for growth in accommodation, food and beverage services to match the quality of services.

In addition to hospitality, training will also focus on cross-cutting sectors including environment, occupational safety and security, labor, insurance, safety and security.

NCT chief executive Dr Shogo Sedoyeka said the training was funded from part of the emergency support funds that Tanzania had raised to meet the urgent health, humanitarian and economic costs of the pandemic.

She said the government had, through the ministry, tasked the college to carry out two phases of training, including upgrading the skills of 1,200 key players in the tourism value chain in eight regions of the mainland.

The second phase consisted of the just-launched two-month training of tourist accommodation and restaurant assessors and a one-month training of seven trainers of public sector trainees.

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