Malawi has been rated poorly for both travel and tourism by the 2015 World Economic Forum (WEF) Travel and Tourism report, with air transport infrastructure being one of the worst in the world.
The report shows that out of 141 economies surveyed for competitiveness, Malawi ranked 126, scoring poorly on health and hygiene, air transport infrastructure and tourist service infrastructure.
The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness report is published by the WEF, a Swiss non-profit foundation based in Geneva, within the framework of the global competitiveness and industry partnership programme for aviation and travel.
The country, according to the report, performed well on safety and security, price competitiveness, environmental sustainability and natural resources. Malawi scored an aggregate of 2.9 out of seven.
Despite tourism players and experts touting tourism as one of the sectors to save the country’s economy and its dependency on tobacco, the country realises meager earnings from the sector.
Malawi’s tourism contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) has been poor with figures showing that the sector last year contributed 4.5 percent to the broadest economic measure and provided 3.8 percent of all the jobs, according to the National Statistical Office (NSO).
The report shows that Malawi earned about $34 million (K15 billion) from 770 000 international tourists in 2013 supporting about 136 000 jobs.
However, neighbouring Zambia raked in $155 million (about K70 billion) from 915 000 international tourists while Mozambique received $241 million (K108 billion) from 1.9 billion international tourists in 2013.
Zimbabwe, whose economy has over the years been in the doldrums, earned $851 million (K382 billion) from 1.8 billion international tourists in the same year, according to the report.
Tourism experts have argued that Malawi has the potential to do more if it sorts out the bottlenecks that choke the sector’s performance.
University of Malawi’s Chancellor College economics lecturer Ben Kaluwa in an interview on Wednesday, said it is time Malawi took a serious look at the tourism sector to fully realise its potential.
“Tourism is not a small sector as often perceived in Malawi. This sector has helped a lot of economies, the United Kingdom inclusive, to grow,” he said.
Kaluwa said tourist rates should be revised and infrastructure renovated, adding that Malawian hotels and other tourist attractions should charge reasonable prices on their services and ensure that roads leading to their sites are in good condition.
He also faulted the performance of the kwacha, urging government to ensure that the local unit is kept stable, stressing that an unstable currency scares away tourists.
Director of tourism Patricia Liabuba recently admitted that the country needs to do more if it is to attract more tourists and be competitive in the region.
She said government is working on building capacity in the sector, expressing optimism that the establishment of the Malawi Institute of Tourism (MIT) Lilongwe campus, a training institution, will add value and boost the industry.