The Malawi Tourism Association (MTA) has cast doubt over President Joyce Banda’s wish of placing Malawi among the top 50 countries in the world as best tourist destinations by 2015.
Currently, Malawi ranks 124 from position 121 in 2011, according to the 2013 Travel and Tourism Competitive index compiled by the World Economic Forum.
“Although the President’s wish is that Malawi should aim to be among the top 50 countries by 2015, our position moved downwards to position 124 from position 121 in 2011. It is, therefore, a big challenge for us to fulfil that by 2015,” said Sam Botomani, executive director of MTA on Friday.
He was speaking in his presentation ‘How competitive is Malawi as a tourist destination,’ made during the 2013 tourism stakeholders meeting in Lilongwe which took place alongside the MTA annual general meeting.
Botomani said in the presentation that the picture created by the rankings ‘is not encouraging’ for Africa in general and Malawi in particular.
He said the tourism private sector has come up with a litany of challenges facing the industry, adding that the sector has in recent years made recommendations to government since the creation of MTA but has made limited impact.
“We do not seem to be moving in the right direction. The disappointing thing is that even those issues that we have identified as quick wins have not been acted upon in time,” he said.
He further cited that the association has in recent years championed the facilitation of issues such as the green and red routes at Malawi international airports, the granting of visas at ports of entry, the synchronisation of policies that affect tourism, the reorganisation of the Department of Tourism to create a specific body to market Malawi.
According to Botomani, key factors that make an effective tourism destination include the availability, accessibility and quality of information as well as the level of development of the country’s infrastructure, among others.
He said to prioritise the tourism sector and the merging of the Malawi Export Promotion Council (Mepc) and the Malawi Investment Promotion Agency (Mipa) into the Malawi Investment Trading Centre (MITC) and also the transformation of the Privatisation Commission (PC) into the Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) should help in improving Malawi’s tourism competitiveness.
In a separate interview on the sidelines of the meeting, Minister of Tourism and Culture Rachel Mazombwe Zulu acknowledged the challenges facing Malawi tourism sector but said government is committed to ensuring that Malawi is placed among the best tourist countries.
She said government has identified tourism as one of the priority areas in the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP).
The minister, however, noted that if the tourism sector is to grow, the tourism public sector must make a policy, undertake planning, investment promotion, infrastructure development and promote Malawi as a destination.
Said Zulu: “Government is fully aware of the need to create a conducive investment environment in order to make Malawi a competitive destination, for both local and foreign investors.”