Our History

History of friends of Usambara Cultural Tourism

Background of Friends of Usambara Cultural Tourism in Tanzania
Cultural Tourism in Tanzania has been developing since 1996, under the stewardship of the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) in collaboration with Ministry of Natural Resources & Tourism (MNRT) and The Netherlands Development Organization (SNV). Cultural Tourism was initiated by youth in local community in Northern Tanzania. The product came as a result of Maasai youth group that was used to dance alongside the Northern safari road accessing Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro and the Serengeti major tourist attractions in the area. During these volunteering dances, resulted to them been given a small change or tip for doing an interesting entertainment along the way. As it became popular, the youth group realized that, they are losing by lacking formal way of selling their cultural product. The group decided to seek assistance from SNV who were by that time doing a number of development projects in the Maasai land. SNV contacted the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and TTB to see how collaboration can be forged to develop the product. At the same time National Tourism Policy had stipulated community involvement in Tourism operation giving a room for various community-based tourism initiatives to be kick-started.

Tanzania had to define its cultural tourism product to be more precise. In the Tanzania context however, cultural tourism adopts a community-based tourism approach in which the people are directly involved in designing, organizing tours and showing tourists aspects of their lives in the area they live in. While economic benefit is derived from this activity, some cross cultural exchange between visitors and the local people is also developed. Operated through the criteria of ownership of the activities undertaken and equitable distribution of the income generated are underlying factors of the programme. It is people tourism that enables tourists to experience the local people’s way of life, offering insights into the values, beliefs and traditions in the host communities’ own environments.

The aim was and is to develop and promote cultural excursions, organized by local people in their natural environment where they live today. Cultural Tourism development took an approach of Sustainable Pro-poor Tourism. This is a way of doing tourism so that it focuses specifically on unlocking opportunities for the poor to benefit more within tourism, rather than expanding the overall size of the sector. Sustainable Pro-poor Tourism goes well beyond ecotourism and community based tourism. It is an approach that attempts to maximize the potential of tourism for eradicating poverty by developing appropriate strategies in co-operation with all major groups/stakeholders central government, local governments, tourism operators, and local communities to have a fair distribution of benefits.

Apart from Friends of Usambara Cultural Tourism, currently there are over 100 Cultural Tourism Enterprises (CTEs) that TTB has helped establishing. Basically the CTEs operate as a total set of products that involve different cultural and natural attractions, activities and provision of services in a given local community. The CTEs provide employment and income generating opportunities to local communities in rural areas of Tanzania hence decreasing rural to urban areas migration. There have been approximately 20% increases in arrivals yearly. Over the past 15 years Friends of Usambara Cultural Tourism Enterprise has realized a tenfold increment in arrivals and revenues collected. Most CTEs focus on offering cultural experiences including: experiencing people’s way of life, traditional dances/ceremonies, sampling of local cuisines, home-stays, daily homestead chores, handicrafts, community development initiatives, indigenous knowledge, historical heritage, nature walks, and local folklores. There are wishes for a geographical expansion and a diversification of the Cultural Tourism products to guarantee a further growth of Tanzania cultural tourism as an additional tourist product that will enhance tourism local economic impact and increase the length of stay of tourists in destination Tanzania.

Supporters for Cultural Tourism

Currently there are three main partners pushing the Cultural Tourism initiative i.e. Tanzania Tourist Board through its Cultural tourism Programme Unit in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism with support from other support organizations such as United Nations-World Tourism Organization Sustainable Tourism-Eliminating Poverty ((UNWTO ST-EP) foundation, Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF)-Cluster Competitiveness Programme (CCP), Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN) and Centre for Development of Enterprises (CDE). In different times CTP was supported by The Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN-NL).

The Cultural Tourism Programme gives visitors to Tanzania the chance to tour tribal areas to meet the people and experience their traditional way of life. Through the programmes, visitors also experience indigenous attractions and scenery of rural Tanzania.

It is a rewarding experience to leave the safari-car behind and climb the mountains of the agricultural tribes of northern Tanzania to see how coffee is grown by subsistence farmers or to walk across the plains to explore the rich traditions of the pastoral tribes whose culture is closely linked to nature and wildlife.

Still the visitor can follow the drumbeats and let the tribal dancers of southern Tanzania interpret the music and performances the tribes have inherited from their ancestors, or just go to the coast to sense the history of the Swahili people of coastal Tanzania.

And for the visitors who want to meet fishermen, cultivators, local minors, wildlife scouts, rainmakers and story-tellers, the land between Serengeti and Lake Victoria is the place to be.

There is more in the cultural tourism programmes of Tanzania!

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