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Moshi Tour Guide Speaks Out About Being Underpaid

Moshi tour guides, porters speak out

Tourists and their guides during one of the trips to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro climbing is a tough task. For one to trek this snow peaked highest mountain in Africa he has to be physically fit and forbearing. But it is soothing when one manages to climb the mountain up to it’s highest point-the Uhuru Peak (5,895 meters above the sea level),” says Boka wa Boka (not his real name) a tour guide working with one of the Moshi-based Tourism and mountain hiking tour companies.

Speaking at different times with the writer of this article on condition of anonymity, for fear of reprisal by tour operators some of Mt. Kilimanjaro tour guides and porters said that, in spite of the difficulty of their work, most tourguides and porters are underpaid.

This is regardless of the routes they use to reach the peak, explaining “all mount Kilimanjaro routes are hard, but other routes are most hardier that others.”

Narrating his experience, Boka says it takes between six and eight days to guide a tourist up the mountain and back. “It is not an easy task. It involves a lot of energy and one has to be very firm to be able to do this kind of work,” he says.

But Boka says in spite of the difficulty of their work, most tour guides and porters are underpaid. “Most tour companies pay their guides less than the rates recommended by the government through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism which is 20 US dollars (30,000/-) a day…and above all, there is no uniformity…each company has its own rates,” he says.

Other tour porter who interviewed with this paper lamented that, the rates imposed by different companies range between 5,000/- and 15,000/- per day for tour guides.

“Porters’ payments range from 2,500/- to 10,000/- a day; and most of the tour operators do forces us to carry overloading tourists bags which in most cases exceed recommended weight of 25 killogrammes per porter…” lamented other tour porter.

They named some other challenges that the tour guides and porters face include lack of working gear appropriate with climatic conditions which keep on changing as they move up the mountain.

“Sometimes it becomes very cold, sometimes it rains heavily, there are also times when we experience strong winds and at times we face blizzard,” he explains adding: “As I told you earlier, what we are paid is too little to enable us buy proper mountain climbing gear.”

He mentions other challenges as lack of rescue teams along the routes.

“We experience lots of problems in handling our customers (Tourists) who fall ill along the way…some faint and we have to carry them down the mountain since it takes time for a rescue team from Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAPA) to arrive,” he says. He was supported by Raphael Matiika (not the real name), a cook, who says they are also working under very difficult environment.

“We too lack appropriate mountain climbing gear and cooking equipment.
We have to carry our tools on our backs and when we reach a point we are expected to start preparing meals while other members of the group rest….we become worn out,” he says.

Most of the Mt. Kilimanjaro tour porters who spoke to this paper mentioned overloading of tourists bags which in most cases exceed recommended weight of 25 killogrammes per porter. “Sometimes we are forced by tour operators to carry up to 40 kilograms of bags per porter. They do so in order to reduce the running costs of their companies but at the expense of our health,” one porter said.

“Sometimes we are forced to do work which is not under our line of duty such as cleaning toilets…and at no extra payment. This is very unfair,” lamented another porter. The guides and porters called on the government to intervene on the matter to enable improvement on their working conditions including payment of fair rates and provision of appropriate working gear.

The writer wanted to know from some tour operators…why the low payment and different rates. Companies’ spokespersons were quick to respond:

“Rates of payment depend on the financial ability of a company.”

“We do pay high park fees which range from 690 to 750 US dollars per client apart from other taxes. The rate is too high compared with what is charged in neighboring Kenya. This makes the burden of running our companies so big…that’s why the difference in payments,'' says one of the Tour Operator on condition of anonymity.

The 690 to 750 dollars they pay, he says, covers rescue services and cleaning of the environment on the way to Uhuru Peak, according to the Kilimanjaro national Parks (KINAPA).

However, he says not always these services are available. “Recently I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro with my tourists and when we reached School Hut point which is 4,703 meters above sea level, we found the huts there un-cleaned.

The tourists asked me about the untidy situation and I had no answer to give,” she says. All in all, what does the future hold for tour guides and porters especially with the ‘ongoing’ operationalisation of the East African Common Market which took off on July 1, 2010?” he asked.

Fortunately, tour guides and porters are aware of the challenges posed by the new developments in the East African Community. They spoke on the need to enhance their skills and knowledge to cope with stiff competition that lies ahead.

“We need more skills in the tourism sector including on wildlife management and hospitality. This will enable us survive in the competitive labour market in the region,” says one of the Tour Guide during an exclusive interviews.

Commenting on the ‘bad situation’ that may also hinder tourism business in the country, the KINAPA officials said that, the issue of payment is a contract between tour guides/porters and the companies that they are working for.

“Its true that there is agreed rates of payment to the Mt. Kilimanjaro tour guides and porters which resulted from meeting between tourism experts including tour operators, tour guides and porters and the Ministry of Tourism and natural resources but some tour Operators do vise versa..” the KINAPA Chief Park Warden Mr. Erasto Lufungulo said during phone interrogation with the writer of thisarticle.

He urged Mt. Kilimanjaro Tour guides and porters to use their societies like Mt. Kilimanjaro Porter’s Society and Mt. Kilimanjaro Guides Association to solve their problems including ‘under paying’ by some hooligan tour operators.

Commenting on the Mt. Kilimanjaro cleanness, the KINAPA Chief Park Warden said that his organization has improved their services including Mt. Kilimanjaro conservation and cleanness.

MOUNT Kilimanjaro is one of the biggest and ‘crucial’ tourism site in Tanzania which contributes greatly to the national income from tourism sector; but the tour guides, porters are not paid well with most of the Tour Operators.

There are several routes by which to reach Kibo, or Uhuru Peak, the highest summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro namely, Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Umbwe and Machame.
Annually, approximately 15,000 people attempt to reach the summit of the mountain, of whom 40percent do so.

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