As part of efforts to increase tourism numbers, Tanzania has announced plans to introduce a cable car on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain, a move that has not gone down well with local mountain workers and guide groups.
Kilimanjaro hosts about 50,000 tourists every year, and this figure could balloon with a cable car service that could cater to those unable to climb the mountain, including children and the physically challenged, said the government.
At the moment, the country is holding discussions about the project with a Chinese and a western company, while conducting feasibility studies on possible routes for the service.
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“We are still doing a feasibility study to see if this project works,” Constantine Kanyasu, the deputy minister for tourism told Reuters.
“There are two companies, one from China and another from a Western country that have shown interest.”
An environmental impact assessment would also be carried out, he said.
Tanzania, which is noted for its vast wilderness areas, wildlife safaris and beaches, has been raking in so much revenue from its tourism sector. Last year, the East African country earned $2.43 billion from tourism, a jump from $2.19 billion in 2017, according to statistics cited by Reuters.
Kilimanjaro, at an elevation of 5,895 metres above sea level, is one of Tanzania’s major tourist attractions, earning the country $55.3 million annually.
For many others, including physically challenged people, children and the elderly, who are unable to have a thrill of climbing the mountain, a cable car service project is readily welcomed.
But for the over 2,500 porters, guide groups, and other local staff who take tourists up the mountain, the project would ruin their work and reduce the number of climbers.
Visitors usually spend a week climbing the mountain, but a cable car service means that they will spend only a few days, said Loishiye Mollel, head of Tanzania Porters’ Organisation.
“One visitor from the U.S. can have a maximum of 15 people behind him, of which 13 are porters, a cook and a guide. All these jobs will be affected by a cable car,” he said.
“We are of the view that the mountain should be left as it is.”
Edson Mpemba, the chairperson of the porters’ society, earlier lamented that most of the tourists will definitely choose the cable car to reduce costs and length of stay, and this will affect the general tourism associated with Kilimanjaro.
“Think of the ripple effect on families of the 250,000 porters,” he said.
“The cable car facility will initially look like a noble and innovative idea, but it will, in the long run, ruin the lives and future of the majority of local people whose livelihoods depend on the mountain.”
Over the years, the cable car is becoming more popular among some countries on the continent that want to shore up their tourism figures. Tanzania’s cable car move comes on the back of that of South Africa, Nigeria, and Algeria.
In South Africa, there is The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, a cable car transportation system providing visitors with a five-minute ride to the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa – one of Cape Town’s most popular tourist attractions. Starting operations on October 4, 1929, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway has cable cars that can carry 65 people, as well as, 5 200kg each. and the floor of the circular cabin rotates to allow travellers 360° views.
Nigeria’s cable car service at Cross River State, southeast Nigeria, was installed in 2005 over the Obudu Plateau. The cable car brings guests from the base to the top of the plateau, giving them a scenic view. It also carries visitors to the Obudu Mountain Resort, a ranch and resort on the Obudu Plateau, situated close to the border of Cameroon.
Likewise, the mountainous cities of Algeria are threaded with gondolas that serve both tourists and commuters. The Skikda gondola system connects two hillside communities to the city’s downtown, located in the valley. In Tlemcen, the gondola connects the city’s south end elevated park to an amusement park in the north.