Behold Malawi Tourism
September 27 is World Tourism Day and this year, just like many years before, Malawi joins the rest of the world in the commemoration.
The day this year comes amid commentators saying that the tourism industry can greatly contribute to Malawi’s economic growth only if well marketed well.
Statistics indeed point to the same.
In 2008 for example, the industry brought in close to sixty billion kwacha, with nearly seven hundred thousand tourists visiting the country’s various attraction sites.
But questions linger on; can Malawi nurture its tourism industry?
It is the year 2010, forty six years since Malawi’s independence. Strangely, as it may sound, most Malawians remain strangers in their own country.
I was a foreigner in my mother land too until recently when I had the privilege of visiting various tourism destinations.
The trip for journalists, organized by the Ministry of Tourism, took us to various tourist destinations like Kungoni Art and Craft Centre in Dedza and Lake Malawi National Park, the only freshwater body which is a national park.
Sounds of the freshwater body, leaves one a new visitor, that belief – Malawi’s is a haven.
The park, due to its uniqueness, was added to the United Nations Science and Culture Organization list of World Heritage Sites.
The other place that has been accorded that status in the country is the Chongoni Rock Paintings in Dedza.
From this brief trip, I concluded that tourism is surely one of the country’s hope, economically. My conclusion is backed by statistics indicating that in 2008 Malawi realized a total of sixty billion kwacha from tourism.
This was despite the harsh economic situation in that year with the world financial crunch.
But questions kept flowing in my mind. Why is the tourism industry facing hiccups in Malawi? How can these seemingly impossible problems be overcome? And how can this changeover be brought about?
It was time to get people’s views on the matter:
Mandy Pondani, a Daily Times journalist, was part of the team that toured a number of tourism places in the country, and says Malawi has a lot to offer in terms of tourism.
“We only need to nurture the industry,” he advises.
Mr. Scot Gray of Kumbali Lodge in Lilongwe says Malawi has all it takes to be one of the world’s favourite tourism destinations.
In fact, Mr. Gray and the owner of Kumbali Lodge, Mr. Guy Pickering, have since started what they call ‘Volunteer Tourism’.
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But Mr. Pickering's wife, Maureen, says one of the challenges facing the tourism industry is high travel costs from Europe.
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This line of thinking appears to be shared by two Dutch nationals I met at Chembe village in Traditional Authority Nankumba’s area in Mangochi district.
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Commentators suggest that lack of interest among Malawians themselves in patronizing attraction sites is a factor derailing tourism development.
Mr. Blessings Msipuwanga is Liwonde National Park Research Officer.
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Mrs. Josiane and Roger Leclerco, a French couple, fell in love with Cape Maclear years ago.
The couple owns a lodge in Chembe village in T/A Nankumba’s area in Mangochi. Mrs. Leclerco thinks Malawi should do more in promoting local tourism.
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Group village headman Chembe says the village is benefiting from tourism, but thinks there is need to improve the road network to the area.
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Responding to the concern, Tourism Deputy Minister, Mr. Augustine Mtendere says his ministry is currently in the process of improving roads to various tourist destinations.
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Frequent power interruptions have also been singled out as one of the major challenges facing the tourism industry.
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The theme for this year’s tourism day on September 27 is ‘Tourism and Biodiversity, the theme that encourages communities to conserve the environment which is also crucial in attracting tourists.
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As the world commemorates the day, one thing is clear: the Tourism industry in Malawi has a great potential.
And deducing from the many voices it is obvious, the battle requires concerted effort to a sure tourism walks up the ladder as Malawi’s trusted forex earner.
Birds …..Song up and under (WINSTON MWALE, ZBS NEWS, LILONGWE!) finish with the song and sounds of Lake Malawi