Good people, the country is counting down to the World Tourism Day on Tuesday, September 27. Every year, September marks the National Tourism Month.
“The idea is to market Destination Malawi. We want the world to know the country’s tourism products,” says Elsie Tembo, the chief director at the Department of Tourism in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism.
Great idea. But marketing the country’s attractions entails more than the Blantyre Street Carnival graced by Tembo last Saturday.
Government invested in the street foray to sell the country in the spirit of Tidziyamba Ndife a Malawi which requires Malawians to lead the way in patronising everything good about our nation.
But at the carnival, people searching for the finest narratives about Malawi had to do with displays of books by John Grisham, Fredrick Forsyth, Dan Brown and other foreign greats.
“Malawian books are hard to get,” said a vendor.
But this was the day booksellers were supposed to go to the ends of the world to bring forth moving literary works about the Warm Heart of Africa, its peoples, cultures, history and scenic spots.
What does it benefit our tourism scene to spend a rare day hawking second-hand foreign books at K1 500 each?
Add to the list of misses, two Malawi Institute of Tourism (MIT) students who exemplified nothing about serving clients satisfactorily, but how to dance Kwaito from South Africa.
Repeat South Africa! And talk about the headliners of the Malawi Tourism Carnival.
At least, Mizu Band turned up with all their tools working barely a year after award-winning veteran Ben Mankhamba’s Zigzaggers failed to perform due to a faulty gadget.
Instead of playing mesmeric tunes from this country of ours, Mizu wandered off and spewed songs from Jamaica and East Africa.
Of course, vocalists Eunice Kadzuwa-Mhango and JJ combined so well on all three songs, some fun-seekers sang along and one danced spiritedly when they did a rendition of Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley’s Is This Love? and his compatriot Jah Cure’s All of You.
I asked the lone dancer about Jah Cure’s hit and he gazed at the blue sky, counting the stars in a galaxy of yesteryears, saying he did not know its title and singer.
Then, I asked JJ: “What do you call the track from East Africa that you just played?” “I have no idea, ask Eunice,” he said point blank.
So to Eunice I went. Her reply? A scratch on the nose, a lengthy “mmmmmh” and something like: “Ask JJ.”
I almost asked the artists: “When are you giving back all the public money you pocketed for this joke?”
But the carnival was not a show unlike any other. Instead of having truly Malawian performances on all roads blocked to keep patrons walking from one exhibition to another, the organisers erected a single stage at a crossroads.
This arrangement confined the crowd to the centre just when people were supposed to be touring service providers’ gazebos for greater insights into our tourism landscape.
I hear the people entrusted with the running and marketing of the country’s tourism brand assembled the organising committee only last month though the national tourism month is a calendar event.
Need I say that impresarios who cannot adequately market a state-funded show at the heart of a dense city have no business claiming they are capable of selling a tourism attraction in the countryside?
When organisations close public roads, they must strive for seriousness. We need sanity in the way we sell our attractions. n