Houses sit at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania's Hie district.
Houses sit at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania's Hie district.

DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA - A government-led marketing campaign helped boost tourist visits to Tanzania by 4 percent in 2014 despite worries about security in East Africa, the tourism minister said Thursday.

Tourism is Tanzania's top foreign-exchange earner and directly employs 500,000 people. Drawn by the country's pristine beaches, safari parks and snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, 1.14 million people visited in 2014, up from 1.095 million the previous year.

"Tourism currently accounts for 25 percent of Tanzania's total foreign exchange earnings," Tourism Minister Lazaro Nyalandu told parliament.

Tanzania earned $1.95 billion from tourism in 2014, up from $1.88 billion a year earlier, central bank data showed. Visitors mostly come from Britain, Germany, the United States and Italy.

Nyalandu said higher tourist arrivals in Tanzania were partly driven by a government advertising campaign. Authorities are also cracking down on poachers threatening wildlife in safari parks, he said.

In neighboring Kenya, which competes with Tanzania for visitors, tourism has declined since 2013, largely because of Islamist militant violence.

Fears over Ebola also hit tourism in Africa hard last year, even though the outbreak was almost entirely confined to three countries in West Africa.

Officials at the state-run Tanzania Tourist Board expect 1.5 million tourists a year by 2017, revised downward from a previous projection of 2 million.