The Malawi Tourism Council (MTC), the voice of the tourism private sector in the country, is putting up strategies that will move Malawi into a vibrant tourism industry by 2020.
Among others, the council is reviewing its constitution, setting up a legal packaging and guiding principles that will enable local investors benefit more from the tourism industry.
Speaking in Blantyre on Tuesday at the opening of a two-day consultative meeting, MTC Executive director Elsie Tembo described tourism industry as quite promising in as far the development of the country is concerned and called on all stakeholders involved to usher in support aimed at developing the industry.
“Tourism is a new money maker if played very well. But many people need to get to know about it. We need to work on strategies that will help us catch up with international standards,” she said.
However, Tembo bemoaned continued use of unfavourable policies and high tax rates as some of the challenges impeding the sector.
She called on authorities to work on reducing the tourist visa rate in line with other neighbouring countries.
In Malawi, tourist visa is at $75 per person while in neighbouring countries such as Zambia they charge $50. Tembo said this puts them at a disadvantage. She added that there is need to open more embassies to help them sell the country to potential tourists.
Annie Fletcher, of Annie’s Lodge hailed the direction taken by MTC and expressed optimism that some of the challenges players in the tourism industry have been facing will be rectified.
“We would like the Malawi Revenue Authority to work on differentiating revenue rates for lodges and hotels because the latter makes a lot of money. We are also not comfortable with this arrangement whereby foreigners are allowed to operate duty free unlike locals,” she said.
Fletcher, further called on the council to lobby for duty free shops “where we can be able to buy furniture and other necessities for the industry and beat international standards.”
In the five-year strategic plan, the council is also working on promoting what it calls responsible tourism which will involve taking full account of current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.