The Central African Wilderness Safaris has terminated the Nyika National Park Chelinda Lodge and Camp management agreement with government because the facility can no longer make business due to Covid-19 pandemic.
The facility, which is a high-end tourism attraction, has largely been receiving international tourists, but with the global travel restrictions due to the pandemic, there is loss of business which has forced the operator to cancel the concession agreement.
Department of National Parks and Wildlife director Brighton Kumchedwa confirmed in an interview on Tuesday about the termination of the contract, saying the company has been operating for the past 11 years and its concession agreement was expected to run up to June 2026.
He said: “What they are saying is that there is no longer visitation of tourists due to Covid-19 so they can hardly make business.
“They have given government a six-month notice as per our agreement, which means they will stop operating in September. So, come October 1, it means we have to operate it ourselves as government.”
Kumchedwa admitted that the department has already started suffering in terms of revenue because the company has on average been paying K14 million annually to government to support operations of the park.
He said the lodge already laid off workers and has remained with only six skeleton staff.
The firm’s managing director Chris Badger also confirmed the development on Tuesday, but said he was not in a position to give more information because he was observing a 14-day quarantine after travelling outside the country.
Betchani Tchereni, economics lecturer at The Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, described the development as sad but urged government to move swiftly to bail out the tourism sector.
Central African Wilderness Safaris has been operating in Malawi since 1987 and has pioneered eco-tourism industry for over 30 years.
Between 1987 and 1992, founders Chris and Pam Badger, conducted over 60 safaris throughout Malawi and gained knowledge and passion for the country, which remains the foundation of the business today.
In 1993, the company branched out with the development of Mvuu Lodge and Camp in Liwonde National Park, becoming the first private company to win a government contract to manage facilities within a national park.