Malawi’s travel and tourism contribution to the gross domestic product (DGP) in 2020 declined by 50.2 percent, published figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) showed on Thursday.
During the year under review, tourism and trade contributed 3.3 percent of GDP or KK207 billion, down from 2019’s 6.7 percent or K416 billion.
Of this, $447.4 million (about K349.2 billion) was generated from domestic tourism while $49.4 million (about K39 billion)come from international tourism.
Thus us, however, despite domestic visitors spending 51 percent (K166 billion) less than what was spent the previous year (K338 billion) while international visitors spent 69.2 percent (K11 billion) less than what was spent the previous year (K37 billion) in 2019.
The sector also lost 32.5 percent (167 000) of jobs, from 516 000 or 6.8 percent of total employment in 2019 to 349 000 or 4.6 percent in 2020.
To promote tourism in this country and make it more competitive within the region, Finance Minister Felix Mlusu announced in his 2021/22 Budget Statement in Parliament that government has aligned the multiple entry visa charges with those in our neighbouring countries by reducing the charge from the current $150 (K117 000) to $80 (K62 000).
In the same vein, Mlusu said the single entry visa charge has been reduced from $75 (58 650) to $50 (39 000).
The move has since been hauled by tourism players.
In an interview on Monday, Tourism Culture and Wildlife spokesperson Sara Njanji said the reduction has come at the right time as international travel globally is starting to pick up.
She said: “We anticipate that international travel to Malawi will also pick up.
“In addition, the reduction is good as it will help us become more competitive as a tourism destination [especially when targeting travelers that combine Malawi with other destinations in the region like Zambia].”
Malawi Tourism Council chairperson Johns Malili, while applauding Treasury for the move said it is not enough for a sector touted as a third priority pillar in the Malawi 2063 development agenda.
He said the single visa entry needed to be further reduced as much or scraped off entirely.
Sail Malili: “It is unnecessary obstacle that discourages visitors from coming, not because it’s a cost but other countries in the region have done away with that so they look more welcoming.
“Secondly, the focus should have been on improving the sector in terms of investments and capacity. The sector needs financial support in form of soft loans and grants especially for small and medium enterprises to improve their products and services offer.”
Following the signing of Malawi-Zambia Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas (TFCA) Treaty between President Peter Mutharika and his Zambian counterpart Edgar Lungu at Sanjika Palace on July 7 2015, Ministry Tourism disclosed that it will be signing a joint visa with Zambia immediately after the Zambian polls in August, a deal which is yet to materialise.
In 2017, the ministry said it was working on the formalities for the Malawi, Zambia joint visa or univisa that would ensure that international tourists visit both countries without hassles.
With a Univisa, it means tourists visiting the two countries only need to obtain one visa. Despite the two countries sharing boundaries in some tourist attraction areas such as Kasungu and Nyika national parks, a tourist visiting either country cannot cross to the other side without obtaining another visa.
Speaking when he opened Segocoa Golden Peacock in Blantyre last October, President Lazarus Chakwera said government would introduce a wide range of tourism investment incentives over and above the current ones to make Malawi a more attractive tourism investment destination.