DODOMA (TANZANIA), Number of tourists visiting the country has increased from 867,994 in 2011 to 1,284,279 in 2016, boosting the government earning from 1.3 billion US dollars to over 2.21 billion dollars (about 5tri/-) during the period under review.

The government also collected 5.6bn/- in 2016/17 as tourism levy from 4.1bn/- in 2015/16, an equivalent of 36 per cent increase.

Presenting his ministry's 2017/17 budget estimates, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Prof Jumanne Maghembe, noted that the number of tourists staying in hotels ballooned from 753,818 in 2011 to 1,145,934 last year.

He attributed the tourist increase to growing cultural tourist projects from 60 in 2015 to 65 in 2017.

On the fight against poaching, the minister said the state organs had conducted 349,102 patrols, with over 7,000 suspects arrested. During the patrols, a total of 129 elephant tusks and 95 pieces weighing 810 kilos were seized.

Available evidences show that 48 military weapons, 1,058 bullets, 22,307 traditional weapons, 189 bodaboda, 20 vehicles and 79,831 head of cattle were seized during the patrols, noted Prof Maghembe.

According to him, the state has filed 2,097 cases against the suspects and 802 cases have been disposed of so far, out of which 262 cases had their 472 suspects jailed.

On his part, Chairman of Parliamentary Committee for Land, Natural Resources and Tourism Engineer Atashasta Nditiye urged the government to conduct research on the impact of Value Added Tax imposed on tourism services.

The committee further called on the government to come up with new modern strategies of combating poaching.

Spokesperson of the Opposition Camp, Natural Resources and Tourism, Esther Matiko called on the government to revisit its decision to impose VAT on tourism services, claiming that the move had negatively affected the sector.

She also urged the government to improve infrastructure to make tourist sites accessible.