Tourism contribution to GDP—the broadest measure of economic growth—is expected to jump to K230 billion (about $331 million) this year, representing seven percent of total output, but tourism players argue this is a giant leap to achieve.
Last year, the sector brought in about K105 billion (about $151 million), which is about 3.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), according to Malawi Government’s Annual Economic Report 2016.
Malawi’s nominal GDP in 2016 is expected to jump by 24 percent to K4.2 trillion, according to the proposed 2016/17 National Budget.
Malawi Tourism Council (MTC) chairperson Florentine Kabefu, while commending government for the projections, said the feat is difficult to achieve if there are no proper strategies to facilitate its growth.
She said currently, there are many challenges, including Visa regulations and poor infrastructure scaring away potential tourists.
Said Kabefu: “Under the right environment, we can make tourism a cash cow. The projections from government can be achieved if we give tourism operators incentives.
“Most visitors are going to our neighbouring countries because they need to pay $75 [K54 000] for a single entry into Malawi while in Zambia or Zimbabwe, they only pay $50 [K36 000]. This means for a family of four to enter they need more money.”
She advised government to ensure that it facilitates a conducive environment for commercial banks to reduce interest rates to enable players in the sector to borrow to expand their establishments.
But director of tourism Isaac Katopola, in a separate interview, said they have undertaken intensive marketing strategies in major source markets to promote Malawi as a major destination for tourists, to boost revenue.
“We hope that we will start reaping [the fruits] within this year or next year if our marketing strategies go according to plan.
“With the reforms that government has undertaken, especially in the aviation sector, we will be attracting more flights once we upgrade Likoma into an international airport and upgrading of KIA [Kamuzu International Airport] to accommodate more passengers,” said Katopola.
He also said with the improvements at Majete Game Reserve in Chikwawa where restocking has taken place, more tourists are patronising the place.
Katopola is banking hopes on infrastructure developments in the tourism sector, which shows that there is potential for growth, adding that a number of hotels are coming up with casinos which is attracting tourists.
However, the challenges in the sector are well documented. There is poor infrastructure in terms of buildings and roads, and the charges are on the higher side, which puts off domestic tourists.
According to the annual report, which is prepared by the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, in 2015 travel and tourism directly supported 205 000 jobs, representing 2.8 per cent of total employment.
The total number of jobs the industry indirectly contributed was 446 500, representing 6.2 per cent of total employment and this is forecast to grow by 0.9 per cent to 207 000 jobs in 2016, which is 2.8 per cent of total employment.
The report says the country attracted 850 000 tourists in 2015 and the figure is expected to rise to 888 000 tourists this year. n