President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera has challenged the Ministry of Tourism to identify both tourism assets and the obstacles the country needs to lift in order to turn around the tourism sector.
Chakwera said his government is determined to address legislative, structural, procedural, behavioural, and organizational roadblocks that stifle the economy’s ability to generate inclusive wealth through tourism in pursuit of Malawi 2063 Vision.
The Malawi leader was speaking in Lilongwe on Thursday when he closed the 2023 Takulandirani Malawi International Tourism Expo (MITE).
“I wanted to demonstrate my government’s unwavering commitment and support to the tourism industry in Malawi as a central piece of our ATM Strategy for revolutionizing the three sectors of Agriculture, Tourism, and Mining to boost the productivity of our economy and the prosperity of Malawians,” said Chakwera.
He, however, stressed that while his government is working on creating a conducive environment for tourism to thrive, there is no substitute for the changes and innovations that players in the tourism sector itself have to embrace in order to make the most of the environment we are creating.
Chakwera said one area that definitely needs innovation from tourism players is the very definition of who a tourist is.
“We must move away from colonial ideas that regard only people from developed countries as tourists because in this global village where people from everywhere are able to travel everywhere, we cannot afford to deprive ourselves of any markets. Similarly, we must not think of tourists as being of one kind, because while it is common to think of tourists as people who travel for pleasure, there are also tourists who go to places for business, for studies, for sports, and for projects, who then make use of their time in other countries to engage in tourist activities. As such, it is critical that tourism players do not work in isolation, but engage players in other sectors who may very well be in a better position to attract foreigners to our land,” he said.
He depored the tendency in the tourism sector to not design services and products that also cater to the needs of Malawians as local tourists, stressing that in the countries that have succeeded in turning their tourism into an economic engine, many of their tourism services are also made accessible and affordable for locals.
He cited Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, which attracts as many as one million tourists each year, yet there are packages that are specially designed to attract members of SADC and others still which are specially designed to attract Zimbabweans themselves.
“We need to address these things with urgency because this is the time to recover the losses we have suffered in recent times and build new fortunes as a country. The Covid-19 pandemic heavily reduced our international tourist arrivals from around 978,000 in 2019 to about 198,000 in 2020, representing a 79.7 percent decrease. But with our renewed focus on the potential of tourism, we have been seeing signs of progress, including a 117% increase in 2021 when we registered over 433,000 international tourists, which means that we are on the right track and we need to not only continue, but we also need to pick up speed,” said Chakwera.