Malawi Tourism Council (MTC), a grouping of tourism industry players, has made a fresh push for waivers from government, including reviewing some labour laws and other policy measures to save the industry.
The request comes against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic which has devastated the tourism industry, resulting in 35 000 people losing their jobs and about K40.5 billion lost in potential revenue in the past three months.
In a letter addressed to Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture, MTC board chairperson Tim van der Linden said the country’s tourism industry will be affected for the whole year and most likely a big part of 2021; hence, the need to review some policies.
He said: “We want government to consider postponing payment for liquor, food and operating licences to the city councils and other institutions and also to consider reviewing prices of permits for local and foreign operators.
“We also want to see a review of the labour law by temporarily reducing contracts wages or hours to keep all employees on board.”
Linden warned that without any support from the government, it will take between five and 10 years to get the tourism industry back to the same level it was pre-Covid-19.
He further asked government to facilitate the availability of low-cost loans to the tourism sector.
The global pandemic has restricted movement of tourists and reduced the number of conferences, and Linden said over 90 percent of the tourism-related operators have scaled down their operations since February 2020 while costs such as wages, taxes, licences and utilities have remained constant.
In response to the suggestions, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Principal Secretary Isaac Katopola, in an interview yesterday confirmed receiving the letter, adding that the ministry will review and assess the proposals in consultation with relevant government departments.
He said: “There are a number of issues raised which require us to engage other departments, for instance, the issue of the labour laws. We will have to send that to the line ministry.”
On the low-cost of credit, Katopola said they will have to consult with the Ministry of Finance and the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) on the modalities on their proposal.
As a direct consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism industry has fired more than 35 000 workers due to business slowdown and closures.
A preliminary study by the MTC released last month showed that the tourism industry contributes about K13.5 billion to the national economy or seven percent of the gross domestic product.
A latest report by RBM indicated that the tourism industry is projected to contract by 9.9 percent in 2020 from an estimated growth of 4.8 percent in 2019 due to the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry called for concerted efforts to lessen the pandemic’s impact on businesses and economy.
National Bank of Malawi plc and the World Bank have predicted that the economy could slip into recession this year.