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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 July, 2003, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Zanzibar's high hopes for festival
By Daniel Dickinson
BBC, Zanzibar

Tourists in Zanzibar
Tourists are back in Zanzibar for the annual film festival

Residents of the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar are hoping their annual film festival will give their tourist industry a much-needed boost after a series of damaging terror alerts.

The Zanzibar International Film Festival (Ziff) is the highlight of the year for Zanzibar and arguably the most important annual cultural event in East Africa.

But this year it is being launched against an unprecedented number of travel advisories from western countries not to come to the region.

"It's been a very bad period for Zanzibar," said Ebba Kalondo, one of the festival organisers.

"But everyone is hoping that Ziff will bring in many more tourists and help to boost the economy. It will certainly lift the spirits of Zanzibaris."

It's been a bad time. I have had massive cancellations
Tour operator Abdulrauf Ramadhani

Each year the festival gets bigger with more films and a wider range of cultural events.

Some tourists say they are not put off by the terror warnings.

"I feel very safe here," Francois Jermain told the BBC. "I'm not worried about the terror warnings. I think they are exaggerated."

Financial hardship

From a visitor's point of view, the festival already looks like being a success.

But those most likely to benefit are to be found in the backstreets of Zanzibar's Stone Town.

The labyrinthine streets are populated by small tour and travel companies, which have been suffering the leanest of times.

Sidi Goma
Sidi Goma from Gujarat in India plays at the opening night

"It's been a bad time. I have had massive cancellations," said Abdulrauf Ramadhani of Equator Tours and Safaris.

"Recently a group of 100 tourists from Sweden cancelled. My business is down about 70%."

With the opening of Ziff, businesses like Abdulrauf Ramadhani's have been given a new lease of life.

"Suddenly there are tourists again and we have a hope that our situation may improve from now on," he said. "It will help to improve our lives."

For the next two weeks Zanzibar will be alive with visitors from across the world coming to enjoy movies, music, exhibitions and dance.

When Ziff is over, the Zanzibaris hope those visitors continue to come.


SEE ALSO:
Zanzibar hit as tourists stay away
02 May 03  |  Business
Zanzibar pays terror price
28 Jan 03  |  Africa
Q&A: Assessing the terror alerts
21 May 03  |  Middle East
Country profile: Tanzania
27 May 03  |  Country profiles


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