Zanzibar hotel dining by the beach

Alcohol Crisis Shakes Zanzibar’s Vacation Haven

Zanzibar, the ultimate Indian Ocean experience, with its fascinating history, incredible nature, enchanting sunset and magnificent beaches is currently grappling with a severe alcohol shortage, putting its vital tourism industry at risk.

Known as the Spice Islands, Zanzibar is a key tourist destination in Africa, generating 90% of the Tanzanian archipelago’s foreign income from tourism.

The shortage has led to beer prices doubling due to a disrupted supply chain caused by an unexpected change in importers.

This crisis coincides with the recent resignation of the island’s tourism minister, Simai Mohammed, who cited poor working conditions, although speculation suggests his departure may be linked to the alcohol supply problems, reported The Daily Mail.

Zanzibar’s appeal as a top travel destination is undeniable, with its beautiful beaches and rich cultural heritage contributing to its ranking among Africa’s best travel spots. However, the current alcohol supply issues are casting a shadow over its reputation, with some hotels on Matemwa Beach now only able to offer soft drinks. Local business owner Mr. Mshenga, who runs a bar selling beer and seafood, expressed his concern, noting the government’s need to address the situation, especially during the peak tourist season.

The shortage has also affected tourists directly, with one American visitor expressing disappointment over the inability to find hard liquor at their hotel. The local production of alcohol in Zanzibar is prohibited due to the predominantly Muslim population, leading to reliance on imports from mainland Tanzania and South Africa.

The crisis began earlier this year when the Zanzibar Liquor Control Board delayed renewing permits for established importers, and the situation worsened with the introduction of new, yet struggling, importers.

The tourism industry is feeling the impact, with the Zanzibar Tourism Investment Association raising alarms over the situation.

The price of beer has notably increased, and popular brands are becoming scarce.

The Amani Alcohol Merchants Union has warned of potential job losses exceeding 3,000 if the issue persists. Issa Mahfoudh Haji from the Ministry of State has acknowledged the complaints and the need for resolution.

Simai Mohammed Said’s resignation as tourism minister has sparked discussions, especially after he criticized the liquor board’s management. President Hussein Mwinyi hinted at a potential conflict of interest involving Said during the swearing-in of the new tourism minister. This controversy unfolds as Zanzibar experiences a tourism boom, with significant increases in visitors, highlighting the urgency of resolving the alcohol shortage to maintain its tourism growth.

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