Power outage threatens Zanzibar tourism

January 6, 2010 12:00 am

, ZANZIBAR, Jan 6 – A month-long power blackout in Tanzania\’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar is threatening the idyllic Indian Ocean island\’s tourist industry, officials said Tuesday.

The archipelago\’s main island, Unguja, has been without power since December 10 due to a breakdown affecting the undersea cable providing electricity from the mainland.

Energy Minister Yussuf Himid said the submarine cable was dilapidated and needs to be replaced as it can no longer sustain increasing energy demand.

Businesses and homes are running on generators and tourism, which accounts for 20 percent of the archipelago\’s earnings, has suffered.

"Already we have a drop in revenue collection and trade in Zanzibar has decreased due lack of electricity," Zanzibar President Amani Karume said as he opened a new shopping mall. He did not give figures.

"It is now the tourism season… There have been a lot of bookings in hotels since November last year, but tourists cannot stay longer because of lack of electricity," Zanzibar Association for Tourist Investors chairman Simai Mohamed told reporters.

"Most hotels have standby generators which cannot operate 24 hours. And also running generators for hours is quite expensive," he added.

Tourism Minister Samia Suluhu Hassan said: "It is obvious that tourists are not happy walking on streets in the night without lights on. Lack of power also discourages investors."

Officials said two water bottling firms have shut down because of the cuts and the island has been hit by a water shortage.

Zanzibar, whose other islands are Pemba and Mafia, has suffered prolonged blackouts in the past, including a four-week blackout in 2008.


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