ARUSHA, TANZANIA, Tanzania is facing an acute shortage of more than 30,000 hotel beds to accommodate the growing demand in the hospitality sector with the country only having 38,000 hotel beds currently available, against demand for 70,000 beds.

According to the acting Director of Tourism in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Deogratius Mdamu, the tourism sector is rapidly growing, with the peak season between July and September seeing overbooking of higher-grade hotels.

Mdamu at a ceremony to award certificates to hotels which underwent the 'Star-Rating' grading exercise for Arusha and Manyara regions here over the weekend, he said the ministry and the East African Community (EAC) jointly conducted the ratings for the hotels concerned.

Until recently, Arusha, which is the country's tourism hub and gateway to the Northern Circuit, had about 2,800 hotel beds. The region is reported to have raised the number to 3,000 while Mwanza, despite its tourism potentials, has only 920 beds, slightly higher than Kilimanjaro and Mbeya's 916 and 670 beds, respectively. Dar-es-Salaam region leads with more than 3,000 beds.

The Tourism Minister, Professor Jumanne Maghembe, says that although the country needs more hotel beds to cater for the increasing numbers of visitors, the services provided must be improved as well.

Hotels in Dar es Salaam, for instance, seem to focus mostly on hosting conferences and meetings while the Northern Zone hotels are more oriented towards the real tourism sector, said Prof Maghembe.