Northern Region tourism officer Japhet Kuweruza has commended the media for its role in promoting the country’s tourism sector.
Kuweruza made the remarks on Friday at the end of a media familiarisation tour to some tourism hotspots in Nkhata Bay and Rumphi. The tour was organised as one of the initiatives to promote the department’s domestic tourism strategy.
He said despite the challenges which the sector is facing due to Covid-19, the media can still report on some of the opportunities that exist in the tourism industry.
“For how long are we going to complain about Covid-19? Let’s continue reporting objectively so that we don’t scare players in the tourism sector,” said Kuweruza.
He said people should not be scared that they will contract Covid-19 when they visit tourism establishments and units because all Covid-19 preventive measures are strictly observed in all areas of attraction and entertainment.
“We have included Covid-19 preventive measures and guidelines on our hospitality units’ assessment parameters. This is to ensure that we sustain tourism activities such as travel amidst the pandemic,” said Kuweruza.
He said to ensure that the tourism industry is not completely shut down due to the pandemic, the department is promoting responsible mass tourism as well as encouraging travel amongst locals through the Local Tourism Strategy amid international travel restrictions.
On his part, Nkhakar Lodge manager in Nkhata Bay, Ebron Soko, expressed concerns over the loss of business, which he attributed to the pandemic.
“We used to achieve 80 percent occupation of our rooms and sell about 20 plates in our restaurants per day before the pandemic, now all that is history,” he said.
Soko said a room which was at K26 000 is now offered at less than K10 000 per night just to ensure sustainability of the lodge’s operations.
“We are following all Covid-19 preventive protocols so that we reduce the risk of ourselves and our clients from contracting the virus as we run our business though our operations have been scaled down,” he said.
Another player in the tourism industry, Davie Kondowe, who works at Nkhata Bay Safaris as a local tour guide, said the decrease in number of international tourists has tremendously affected tour guiders’ livelihood.
“We depend on providing guidance to tourists as our sole source of income to fend for our families but our current economic status cannot provide for our families, with daily basic needs,” he said.