At a time the country’s tourism industry is facing a number of challenges to fully grow and contribute substantially to economic growth, the Department of Tourism has developed a domestic tourism growth strategy to encourage tourism by locals.
As part of the strategy, which will roll out in January 2016, the department is negotiating with players in the tourism industry who charge their services in dollars to start charging locals in kwacha and at a standardised rate to help boost revenue in the tourism sector.
The department says it believes this will spur growth in the sector, which is one of the priority areas in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS II) and is expected to contribute to sustainable economic growth and diversify the country’s foreign exchange earnings away from tobacco, which contributes about 13 percent to gross domestic product (GDP).
Figures from Malawi Government Annual Economic Report 2014, show that tourism sector’s contribution to GDP was eight percent in 2014, and the vision in the MGDS II is to increase the contribution to 13 percent by 2018.
Director of tourism in the Ministry of Information, Tourism and Civic Education Patricia Liabuba, in an interview this week, said they are working with the private sector to achieve the goal of increasing domestic tourism.
She said: “We want to ensure that what we are offering is affordable to Malawians so that they can be ambassadors to various tourist attraction places in the country. We are also targeting schools to make sure that we have a generation which is sensitised and is aware of the tourism industry in Malawi.”
Liabuba said they hope that with the strategy in place, most Malawians will be encouraged to travel and experience the beauty of the country.
Among other things, she said, the strategy will also encourage the use of local currencies for all domestic tourists in places where its owners are charging in dollars, a situation that is prevalent in some establishments.
In 2013, travel and tourism investment constituted 2.6 percent of Malawi’s total investment and was expected to grow by 5.9 percent last year.
Malawi Tourism Council (MTC) chairperson Florentine Kabefu could not comment on the development of the domestic tourism growth strategy, saying they are yet to engage the Department of Tourism on the same.
But Geoffrey Phiri, one of the exhibitors at the just-ended 2015 Blantyre Tourism Street Carnival, hailed the initiative, saying it will help to boost the tourism sector as they have been relying on foreign tourists for support.
“I hope that this new initiative will work to our advantage as well. If more and more domestic tourists come to visit these tourist centres, then it may be to our advantage,” he said.
Malawi is ranked 126 out of 141 economies on the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) 2015 of the World Economic Forum (WEF).