Malawi’s tourism sector was among the worst hit by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic among five countries in the 16-member Southern African Development Community (Sadc) in 2020, figures show.
Published figures from the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC) show that Comoros topped the list, with its traveller and tourism contribution falling by 66.4 percent to 3.3 percent, generating $40 million (about K33 billion) from the sector.
Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Malawi registered a decline of 66.1 percent, 62.1 percent, 51.6 percent and 50.2 percent in that order with their contribution to the sector standing at 4.4 percent, 8.7 percent, 21.9 percent and 3.3 percent respectively.
In Madagascar, tourism revenue hit $590.3 million, (K484 billion), Mauritius $959.5 million (K788 billion), Seychells $270.8 million (K222 billion) and Malawi $274.3 million (K225 billion).
The figures further show that in terms of international visitor impact, Malawi registered a decline of 69.2 percent, generating at $15.2 million (about K12.4 billion), with the country only outperforming Lesotho ($6.7 million) and Eswatini ($1.8 million).
Malawi was also the second worst-hit on the employment front with 32.5 percent of the workforce in the sector losing their jobs from 516 200 to 348 500. Comoros was the worst- hit, with 36.9 percent of its workforce losing jobs, leaving the total employment in the sector at 13 600 from 21 600.
In a statement, WTTC senior vice-president of advocacy Virginia Messina said due to Covid-19 and the ongoing restrictions to international mobility, the sector suffered losses of almost $4.5 trillion, with its global contribution to gross domestic product declining by 49.1 percent to $4.7 trillion while international visitors spending fell by 69.4 percent.
She said: “The swift recovery of the sector will only be possible if leaders and public officials have a coordinated response to the resumption of international travel, including clear roadmaps, rules and mobility protocols, providing certainty and restoring consumer confidence.”
In an interview yesterday, Malawi Tourism Council chairperson Johns Malili said while visa fees have robbed Malawi of more international visitors, improving investments and capacity in the sector is key.
In his statement at the end of the 41st Sadc Heads of State and Government Summit in Lilongwe on Wednesday, President Lazarus Chakwera, who is now the Sadc chairperson, called for enhanced fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in the 16-member regional bloc.
He said Malawi can be turned into a tourism hub in the region and in turn support the country’s sociol-economic development.
Chakwera said government would introduce a wide range of tourism investment incentives over and above the current ones.