Their target, when they initiated the walk from Blantyre to Lilongwe, was to train 100 tour guides. But, at the end of the day, the funds the 312-kilometre trek raised in November last year ended up training 215 guides in some of Malawi’s tourist districts.
Briefing journalists at Crossroads Hotel in Blantyre on Friday, one of The Walkers who went on that 10-day trudging, Tourism Council executive director Innocent Kaliati said they were overwhelmed not only with the response they got in raising the funds, but also because they raised more than their target. He said they trained the guides in Mulanje, Zomba, Nkhata Bay and Mangochi.
He said Salima missed out on the trainings between June and October this year because the guides there wanted to be paid for the trainings that included expertise from the Malawi Institute of Tourism, St John’s Ambulance and specialist training.
“We are satisfied that we achieved our goal. We targeted to raise K7 million, but we got K10.6 million. The German international cooperation arm GIZ’s More Income and Employment for Rural Areas [Miera] topped up and, in the end, we had K46 million. It was only necessary to train the tour guides who are an important sub-sector in the tourism industry,” said Kaliati.
He said the guides were trained in various aspects, including the intricacies of tourism, first aid and specialist areas like story telling.
“We imparted skills to them according to the needs of a particular area. We engaged people like Dr Ken Lipenga on Mulanje Mountain, while we had experts on first aid for drowning at Cape Maclear. We covered five days at each tourist district,” Kaliati said.
The Walkers team leader Yangairo Yangairo said the feat was satisfactory as some districts, like Zomba, that had no tour guide associations have set up one. But, he was concerned that out of the 215 guides trained, only 14 were women.
He said: “For instance, in Mulanje we found that some men discourage women from being guides just because that would mean spending some three days out in the mountain utmost.
“Funny enough, the men do go out in the mountain for that same period with female visitors. No matter what, we are happy that we achieved all we could because Malawians supported our cause.”
During the walk, The Walkers, 10 in number, were supported by various interest groups and companies as well as government.
Vice-President Saulos Chilima and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Michael Usi joined the last miles, as companies such as TNM plc, Build Africa, Kips and Kukoma pumped in cash and other donations in kind.
Speaking on the last day of the walk, Chilima said tourism is a great source of employment and can boost a country’s economy.
He encouraged Malawians to look at the country’s tourist attraction places as potential sources of income instead of just waiting to be employed formally by the government and already established companies.