CLASSIFICATION OF HOTELS, RESTAURANTS AND OTHER RELATED TOURIST FACILITIES IN TANZANIA
According to WTO records, by 1970 only five European countries had national classification systems in place. But by 1980 the number had increased to 22 in Europe and 60 worldwide. Since then hotel classification has been accepted to mean the separation and grouping of different types and ranges of accommodation or restaurants into several categories based on a range of standard criteria.
Historically, hotel classification systems were developed to ensure safe and reliable lodging and food for travellers at a time when very few such trustworthy establishments existed. With the unprecedented growth of international tourism in the past fifty years, during which hospitality has reached the status of a mature industry, the focus has moved from consumer protection (generally guaranteed by national regulations and legislation) to consumer information. Today, standardization and competitive marketing of hotel services to foreign customers and tourist professionals have emerged as driving forces for instituting a local or national hotel classification system.UNWTO
That is why, accommodation classification is the process by which establishments are separated and grouped into categories or classes according to their common physical, environmental, hospitality, amenities, service, safety, security and upkeep among other criteria. It entails the identification of types, settings, standards and criterion for each type. Other aspects such as verification of the standards, institutional certification and finally awarding of labels or signs are part of the processes of classification.
The Genesis of the Tanzanian Classification Scheme
The recognition of the necessity for quality assurance in the tourism industry has been acknowledged in Tanzania since the 1980s. The competitive nature of international tourism, the rising level of consumer rights and the need to stamp the country's destination credentials drove this initiative. In September, 2000, the Tanzania Government through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNT) formed The Panel of Experts on Standardisation and Classification of Hotels, Restaurants and other Tourist Facilities. The Panel's portfolio also included setting-up of Standards for Non Classifiable Establishments. This decision was in line with the provisions of the East African Community (EAC) Treaty; article 115(2) and subsequent directions and decisions made by the EAC Council of Ministers. At the same time Kenya and Uganda as Members of the EAC (Partner States) likewise formed their teams. The Panel comprises of five experts from each Partner State who come from both the industry/private and the public sectors.
The Standards Criteria for Classification and the Assessment and Scoring, and the Score Tallying Sheets were developed by the said team of experts comprising Members from the EAC Partner States as said earlier. These experts were informed by UNWTO guidelines for Sub-Saharan Africa and best practices worldwide albeit with the problems discussed above. But adhered to the UNWTO references whereby basic standards which could be recognised as minimum standards of universal application irrespective of cultural differences, which are vital to all human beings and guests and correspond to ethics and satisfaction of their basic needs. It should also be firmly said that emphasis in approach differ. While some schemes emphasise quality, others may stress facilities and hygiene or service or even environment as Green Globe 21 does. Members of the Panel chose to borrow from all of these to come up with a comprehensive approach well tested for standardisation demands of our time.
Current Status of the Classification Process in Tanzania
Jointly with their counterparts from Kenya and Uganda (here in called EAC Partners) finalised the Draft Report on Proposed Standards Criteria for the Classification of Hotels, Restaurants and other Tourist Facilities and Proposed Standard Guidelines for the Development of Non-Graded Establishments. The Draft Criteria were presented to Stakeholders for discussion and deliberation in Dar es Salaam on 6th August 2004 at The Golden Tulip where 30 Dar es Salaam hotel operators/representatives attended. On 21st August the same year, another stakeholders meeting was held Arusha where 25 operators/owners were represented and lastly; 24th August one was held in Mwanza where 20 representatives attended. After that; The Standard Criteria were presented to the East African Tourism and Wildlife committee for deliberation, comments and approval in September 2004.
The East African Tourism and Wildlife Committee after deliberations, comments, corrections and appropriate recommendations forwarded the Standard Criteria to the EAC Council of Ministers who approved the Draft in April 2006. After the approval these Standard Criteria superseded all other existing schemes in the Partner States. The work of editing and publishing should be finalised by the EAC Secretariat before July 2007.
Developed the Assessment and Scoring and the Score Tallying Sheets for the Standards Criteria for Classification; covering Town and Vacation Hotels, Lodges and Tented Camps, Villas, Cottages and Serviced Apartments and Motels. The Counsel of Ministers approved these instruments after being deliberated by the East African Tourism and Wildlife Committee for five days in January 2007.
Pre-tested the Proposed Standards Criteria for Classification and Assessment and Scoring Sheet for seamless functionality in ten up-market hotels in Kampala, Entebbe and Munyonyo all in the Republic of Uganda under the auspices of the EAC Secretariat in October/November 2006. The Assessment and Scoring Sheets were edited to reflect what was happening on the ground in Uganda; a scenario which was believed to represent the rest of the Partner States.
Inventoried most of the Hospitality Establishments in Dar-es-salaam, Arusha, Mara, Dodoma, Mwanza, Tanga, Kilimanjaro, Manyara and Pwani. The Inventory Inspection Team is still on the ground mopping areas which were not optimally done.
Proposed Implementation of the Classification of Tourist Establishments in Tanzania
Unfortunately in Tanzania we are talking of a first! Apart from the Members of the Panel who developed the Standard Criteria for Classification and the subsequent Assessment and Scoring and Score Tallying Sheets; the number of professionals familiar with the documents are very few if they are indeed available. Consequently we have to wonder in virgin land and build capacity as we go.
With that in mind the Panel Members from Tanzania plan to run a pilot Classification Programme in Arusha jointly with the rest of the Panel Members from Kenya and Uganda. In the face of lack of qualified personnel familiar with the developed EAC Criteria, it is wise and cost effective to employ the team that built the system in the first place. This option was selected not only to avoid rushed selection and training of Assessors but also to tap the wealth of combined experiences in our Partner States. In using this approach the credibility crisis wont be an issue; and simultaneously internal capacity building efforts will go on. The other advantage of using this team includes; the need to use the experience gained during the scheme formative years (six!).
Transition from Registration and Licensing of Hospitality Establishments to Classification and Grading
Tanzanian Hospitality Establishments have had to be licensed since colonial times; and since 1971 when Tourism Agencies Licensing Authority (TALA) was enacted a form of double Registration exists. When the new Tourism Act comes into operation, this anomaly will be corrected. The UNWTO defines Registration as a form of licensing which may or may not demand a minimum standard. Nevertheless, some conformity with health, fire and safety legislation and byelaws is necessary implying a minimum criterion. Unfortunately in Tanzania all mentioned criterion are supervised by a myriad of regulatory bodies and local authorities which often times have different priorities; not to mention lack of coordination among them.Ãƒâ€š Ãƒâ€š
Currently the Hospitality scene in Tanzania is in transition from this mess to clearer registration rules which will lead to classification. Challenges are many as this is a critical point requiring a cautious, albeit systematic approach to hotel classification. The Government of Tanzania under the auspices of The East African Community; will be acting legitimately when it enacts mandatory hotel classification in discharging its duty to provide for a fair playing field for competition, protect consumers and participate in efforts to position Tanzania correctly in the source markets.
In order to fully understand the implication of this transition; a brief SWOT analysis is hereby provided:
The advantage of adopting a Classification System is that the world of Tour and Travel and the international traveller can easily recognise the signs and rankings and make choice/s.
Guests expect and find the minimum operational standards regardless of the location or provider.
Government planning in areas of accommodation is made easier.
Marketing strategy is made easier with guest profiles of different categories available.
Investors have benchmarks to base on when improving standards and/or adding a range of facilities.
The public and private organs in marketing will target their promotions with clearer focus.
Eliminate bad properties which impact negatively on the reputation of the destination and of the better properties.
Old but prime properties with undersized guest and public rooms will be disadvantaged.
Resources in terms of qualified personnel and the structure to undertake the exercise will have to be brought-up from scratch.
Difficult of properties receiving top rankings because of geographical/climatic location; e.g. the logic of verandas and terraces in mosquito infested areas.
Fear of change from the private sector.
The right time to strengthen the PPP.
Develop markets by positioning establishments with recognisable codes
Train and develop a new cadre of Assessors from a clean start.
Guide appropriate investments in required categories.
Resources in terms of funding and personnel to keep the exercise not only running but under constant check, audit and assessment to ensure conformity to earlier approved standards; and/or demotion where appropriate.
Lack of suitable institutional and legal frame work within which the scheme would work.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 March 2009 14:13|