Tourism players have expressed concern over government’s lack of timely intervention to provide bailout packages to save the industry from collapse due to the impact of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Malawi Tourism Council (MTC) board chairperson Tim Van Der Linden said in March the industry’s players had a meeting with the Department of Tourism where it proposed eight incentives for the tourism sector.
He said: “We clearly understand the difficult situation and that the whole Covid-19 issue has become a countrywide pandemic ,but without communication on the progress made by government, operators are frustrated.
“At the moment, over 95 percent of hotels and lodges have been closed for business. Some operators are trying their best to work with reduced salaries but they can’t keep it like this in the coming months. Operators need to know if something can be done and if not, then they can continue planning to save their businesses.”
Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Wildlife principal secretary Isaac Katopola confirmed that MTC requested government through his ministry to Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development and the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) for a possible bail out and other incentives.
He said MTC asked government to either make a once-off payment or pay part of salaries of compliant tourism operators for three months to avert possible closures of companies and massive retrenchments.
Said Katopola: “We do not have an answer to this big request yet as you know government has to, among other issues, identify where to get the financial resources. Other requests, however, like debt repayment holidays were approved through RBM and commercial banks.
Last month, Katopola said that over 35 000 jobs have been lost in the tourism industry due to the adverse impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that has restricted travel and conferences, among others.
Economics lecturer at the University of Malawi’s The Polytechnic Betchani Tchereni said yesterday the tourism sector deserves the highlighted stimulus packages as it was already hit in 2019 by a post-election political impasse as well as mass demonstrations and before recovering it is now hit by Covid-19.
Government recognises tourism among the priority areas of the country’s development blueprint, the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy, which advocates for sound investment from both local and foreign direct investment, among others