Zanzibar beer: Alcohol shortage hits Tanzania’s spice islands

Petra Belloth geniesst am 3. Juli 2008 in einem Biergarten im Englischen Garten in Muenchen ein naturtruebes helles Sommerbier.
Petra Belloth geniesst am 3. Juli 2008 in einem Biergarten im Englischen Garten in Muenchen ein naturtruebes helles Sommerbier. Thursday, July 3, 2008 . (AP Photo/Diether Endlicher)

Zanzibar, known for its stunning beaches, is grappling with a shortage of alcohol, posing a threat to its booming tourism industry. The shortage has led to a doubling of beer prices, impacting businesses and leaving tourists disappointed.

Tourism, which contributes about 90% of foreign revenue to the Tanzanian archipelago, is suffering due to disrupted supply chains caused by a change in importers. The islands’ tourism minister recently resigned, with some attributing his departure to the alcohol supply issues.

Popular tourist hotels are now only serving soft drinks, forcing visitors to seek alcohol in the main city, Stone Town. Local businesses, like Mr. Mshenga’s bar, are feeling the pinch with dwindling beer stocks.

“We are running short of beer at my bar, and I just have a stock of soft drinks,” he told the BBC. “The government has to take action. It is the high season now, it is very hot and these tourists need joy, they need cold beer on these beaches.”

Tourists are clearly not happy about the situation.

An American tourist, who wants to remain anonymous told the BBC:  “I love Zanzibar and its beaches. The people are amazing and only challenge I feel now is I can’t get hard liquor. I want to have spirits or even whisky but nothing is found in the hotel – they instead advised me to order it from Stone Town.”

The shortage stems from delays in renewing permits for established importers, leading to a reliance on new companies struggling to meet demand. The situation has prompted concerns about job losses and impacts on the island’s economy.

Despite efforts to address the crisis, including appeals from affected parties and government interventions, shelves remain empty, and prices continue to rise.

“There is an alcohol shortage in Zanzibar and we’ve already informed authorities about the tourism sector’s situation,” Rahim Mbarouk, chairman of the Zanzibar Tourism Investment Association lamented.

Its reported that the price of beer has gone up from 2,500 shillings ($1; £0.80) to 5,000 shillings, according to Neema Meena, a frequent traveller to Zanzibar from mainland Tanzania.

Some popular alcohol brands, like Safari, are said to be completely unavailable.

The crisis comes amid a surge in tourist arrivals, making it imperative for authorities to swiftly resolve the alcohol shortage to sustain Zanzibar’s tourism appeal.