The Malawi Tourism Council (MTC) has urged tourism players to take extra measures as set by the Ministry of Health and Population to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country.
Although no case has been reported yet in the country, government is taking drastic measures to prevent the spread of the virus which has so far been reported in neighbouring countries Tanzania, Zambia, Kenya and South Africa.
The council’s call is also in cognisant that most of the people visiting the country are tourists from across the globe and are accommodated in hotel establishments as their first point of call hence precautionary measures are critical.
In a statement, MTC’s chairperson Tim Van Der Linden said over the last few days, the board has been discussing with tourism operators on a way forward in dealing with this difficult situation.
He said: “We all have to be realistic that unfortunately Covid-19 (Coronavirus) will significantly affect the tourism sector, and many other sectors in Malawi, and around the world. Our aim is to create unity between all members and try to limit the damages as much as possible.
“Government is aware of all suspected situations and so far no case of Covid-19 has been confirmed. At the moment, we would like to urge our members to follow the guidelines offered by the Ministry of Health such as washing of hands, use of sanitiser and avoiding big crowds.”
He said MTC understands the concerns and upcoming stories of Covid-19 in the social media but cautioned players to avoid mass hysteria and unnecessary damage to avoid forwarding unconfirmed messages relevant to Covid-19.
Department of Tourism director Isaac Katopola in a written response said they introduced and shared with all players guidelines on prevention of Covid-19 in all establishments.
He said upon arrival at the unit, the hotel or lodge should take the necessary precautionary measures before the guest is checking in, including washing of hands.
Said Katopola: “We are following all developments on this pandemic with keen eye and action. We have since developed tourism sector specific guidelines on prevention and management of the deadly virus which must be followed by the industry.
“Also following guidelines from United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), travel to and from high risk countries on coronavirus is being discouraged. The slogan in the interational tourism industry circles is now ‘Postpone, Don’t Cancel, To Save Tourism’.
Last week the tourism industry admitted that the virus is slowing down business as most of the planned conferences, tourist visits among others have been suspended or cancelled due to the threat of coronavirus.
Currently, tourism contributes eight percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and is also a source of employment for a good number of citizens in the country.