|Dar against time to beat Pretoria over 7 Wonders|
The country is pitted against South Africa in a fierce battle to win a lone place reserved for Africa on the list of “Seven Natural Wonders of the World” to be announced soon.Mt Kilimanjaro, for many years a major tourist attraction for Tanzania and the entire East Africa region, is competing with South Africa’s famous Table Mountain for the unique slot.
The competition, organised by a group called Seven Natural Wonders, entails deciding which tourist attractions all over the world should be nominated as the ‘Seven Natural Wonders of the World’.
To win and make it to the rare list of seven, either Mt Kilimanjaro or the Table Mountain has to score the highest
votes cast in their respective home countries, and from nature lovers around the world. Voting is ongoing online and through SMS campaigns.
In total, 28 sites spread across several continents are competing for the final listing. The winner has a potential to significantly raise the respective country’s fortunes in terms of tourist arrivals and free publicity generated from the competition.
Last year, Tanzania earned $1,291.5 million (about Sh1.901trillion) from tourism, according to the Bank of Tanzania. The government says it is targeting about $1.7 billion income from the industry and related activities by the end of this year (2011).
Mt Kilimanjaro and the Table Mountain made it into the finals out of an initial list of 440 sites in 220 countries in 2009. The seven winners will be announced later in the year after voting closes on November 11.
While South Africa mounted an aggressive campaign long ago to sensitise the public to vote for its Table Mountain, the opposite is the case for Tanzania, as authorities in Dar es Salaam are only waking up to the fact that they could be swept out of the competition.
The Tourism and Natural Resources ministry and the Tanzania Tourism Board (TTB) appeared to be on the back peddle, with little going on between them to market Mt Kilimanjaro as aggressively as other countries are doing. This has raised concern among supporters who feel that laxity on the part of authorities--and not the popularity of Mt Kilimanjaro –will be the country’s undoing should South Africa win. Some of them went ahead to open own accounts on social networks like Face Book and Twitter to drive the campaign.
Until this week, there had been no significant efforts to profile Mt Kilimanjaro in the competition, other than muted advertisement on radio and television urging the public to take part. Unlike in SA, there is hardly any SMS campaign to tap into the nearly 20 million registered mobile phone subscribers in Tanzania to participate easily.
Interviewed on Thursday, the director of Tourism, Mr Ibrahim Mussa, said it was not the ministry’s primary duty to organize support for Kilimanjaro as the role was left to TTB. “I am however aware that the voting process has been advertised in some newspapers here at home,” he said.
Urging Tanzanians to vote for the mountain, Mr Mussa said it was the only way to popularize it, saying: “Even if it will not win, at least we will make it be known to other countries that it is in Tanzania.” He asked people in neighbouring countries also to vote for Kilimanjaro., although he admitted it would be difficult without SMS to reach the rural mass.
TTB managing director, Dr Aloyce Nzuki, could not comment when reached on phone as he was out of the country on a trip. But through the agency’s official website, Dr Nzuki is quoted confirming that there was a “fierce competition between the two African destinations.”