The Aga Khan to bless Tanzanian Ismailis

By Apolinari Tairo

His Highness the Aga Khan arrives in Tanzania on March 13 for a three-day visit. His Highness is expected to inaugurate the recently built Serena Inn in Zanzibar on March 15. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) spent USD 39 million to build the Serena Inn, the most beautiful and modern tourist facility in islands. The 52-room luxury inn has been established in the heart of Zanzibar's historic stone Town after a successful job to renovate the old buildings through financial support from the Aga Khan Fund for Culture. The event is also a result of the USD 6.5 million investment by the AKFED which has sponsored the renovation and acquisition of the historic building which is now a luxury tourist inn. The inn is the result for a well planned rehabilitation and revitalisation of two existing sea-front old structures dating back to early years of this century. The two structures were developed (rehabilitated) with an aid of a US Dollar 750,000 site grant from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture to ensure design compatibility with the historic character of the island's Old Stone Town. Three lodges in the mainland and a tented camp in Serengeti have opened a new chapter of tourist business in Tanzania with competitiveness and environmental conservation initiatives, said Mr. Salim Janmohammed, senior official from Serena Chain of Hotels in Tanzania. The lodges - Lake Manyara Serena Lodge (67 rooms), Ngorongoro Serena Lodge (75 rooms), Serengeti Serena Lodge (66 rooms) and kirawira Tented Camp (25 tents) have been established with a total of US Dollars 32.5 million through the sponsorship of AKFED. The lodges were officiated in their joint opening in mid-June last year by President Benjamin Mkapa in the Presence of His Highness the Aga Khan, Chairman of AKFED. In his opening remarks, President Mkapa said his government will work hard to attract more investors in hotel and tourist sectors, hopefully to welcome the new century with better economic and business successes through private ventures. "We have identified tourism as the number one foreign exchange earner by the year 2000," the President said.

The Serena Hotels and Lodges project has been sponsored by the Tourism Promotion Services (TPS) which owns 51 per cent shares. TPS is a subsidiary company by AKFED. Co-financing comes from the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) which has 20 percent, the International Financing Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank 20 per cent and the Tanzania's National Provident Fund (NPF) nine (9) percent shares. Serena Lodges and Hotels in Tanzania will add more than 400 new jobs to Tanzanians in tourist sector and provide 109.000 guest nights within the country's tourist sites, said Prince Amyn Aga Khan, Chairman of Tourism Promotion Services. The lodges will also generate total sales of US Dollars 23.3 million, and all these achievements will be seen in the year 1999. Prince Amyn Aga Khan said. After the opening of Zanzibar Serena Inn, Serena Chain of Hotels and Lodges in East Africa will be managing and own 10 tourist facilities with 870 rooms, all employing 1,900 employees in the region. Serena Lodges and Hotels had also shown a good example on environmental conservation, noting that, most tourist sites where the hotel and lodge business runs, are mostly environmentally delicate and very sensitive to nature. The Lodges and Hotels management has dedicated itself to support environmental programmes in the areas where investment is taking place. Serena is expected to provide to the National Parks authority a total of US Dollars 2.5 million in the coming five years of operation, and this will be the biggest commitment by the Aga Khan on nature and environmental conservation. "l have been greatly relieved to hear that Serena's philosophy prohibits causing any damage to the environment, whether through waste dumping, pollutants, noise pollution, smoke etc. This is very important to us because these lodges have been contructed in an area of the highest environmental sensibility," President Mkapa said. On his side, Prince Amyn said that the lodges and all facilities in the areas with environmental sensitivity were designed to emanate "the careful research into local architectural idiom, local design vocabulary, local arts and crafts". The lodges were not foreign constructions imposed on a local landscape and the intention was that "as soon as possible, they should disappear into the surrounding vegetation," Prince Aga Khan said.

Zanzibar Serena Inn has been a unique investment by the Serena Group after the opening up of doors to foreign and local investors in the islands. The historical Old Stone Town has been an ideal centre for tourists to visit when in holiday in the islands. The position of the Inn gives a real image of cultural and historical heritage of Zanzibar. The history of Zanzibar is seen at Stone Town, when calling back to A.H. 500 or 1107 A.D. when the first Mosque was constructed at Kizi - Mkazi. The Mosque is one of the "wonders of Zanzibar" and when you visit the place today, you will find several graves of Shariffs and the ealist rulers in the island. Historical sites of Zanzibar plus the Serena Inn could be the other addition of the wonders which most tourists would be attracted to view and spend their money to enjoy their lives. Coming of Serena Group of Lodges and Hotels in Zanzibar has added another business opportunity to the Islands with new jobs which could be all beneficial to the people. After the collapse of clove markets, the Zanzibar government has opted to boost tourism as the possible foreign income earner, and new hotel and lodge investment ventures have been established there to carty on tourist business.

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