The Malawi Tourism Council wants government to give tourism prominence by establishing a stand-alone ministry specifically for tourism.
Recently government dismantled some ministries such as Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture by placing tourism under Ministry of Information, Tourism and Civic Education, while wildlife is now under ministry of energy and culture was placed under ministry of sports.
The move, however, did not go down well with stakeholders in the tourism sector who argue that the move defeats the purpose of making tourism as a major forex earner for the country.
According to minutes from a recent meeting by the Malawi Tourism Council made available to Business News, the council feels there is need to continue engaging government to make tourism a principal ministry.
“MITC will continue to lobby with government and other sectors and departments on the need to put tourism as a principal ministry not as a department of any ministry as is the case now because such arrangements defeats the whole purpose of Tourism being a priority sector by the government,” reads the minutes from the meeting in part.
But director of tourism in the Ministry of Information, Tourism and Civic Education Patricia Liabuba said there was no problem with the current arrangement as the department is still functioning.
She said: “There is a reason government decided to go for the current arrangement and we continue to function [normally].”
According to Tourism Development Plan, government decided to give autonomy to the Ministry of Tourism in 1995 to give the sector prominence as one of the priority sectors to spur economic growth in the country.
The Department of Human Resource Management and consultancies for the Tourism Development plan which followed strongly recommended to government that the Ministry of Tourism should be combined with parks and wildlife and culture as these formed the major tourism base for Malawi which were still underdeveloped.
With this arrangement it was expected that tourism would then play a coordinating role and provide the strategic direction in terms of tourism development along side conservation and cultural preservation which the other two departments were mandated to.
According to Liabuba since the merger, parks and wildlife have now fully embraced the concept of eco-tourism in the protected areas although tourism still need to continue to play its role in ensuring that the tourism product is developed to the required stndards.
“For culture, tourism had just started developing a concept for culture based tourism for two departments to work together to develop and organsie the cultural product for tourism.
“The current set up will necessitate tourism to lobby with other ministries whose strategic thinking and direction may not necessarily be that of tourism,” she said.