Simplify travel conditions, Pres. Banda tells UNWTO in Zimbabwe

In order for countries to fully reap the benefits that international tourism can bring to economies, it is important that conditions were put in place that make countries easy to visit and do business in, Malawi’s President Dr. Joyce Banda has said.

Banda was presenting a keynote address on August 26, 2013 at the Ministerial Round Table at the on-going 20th Session of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly being co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

This year’s General Assembly (August 24 to 29) is discussing the relationship between tourism and air transport policies.

President Banda’s address focused on ‘Visa facilitation as a means to support tourism growth, socio-economic development and job creation’.

President Banda with members of the media at Victoria Falls International Airport on Arrival on Monday

President Banda with members of the media at Victoria Falls International Airport on Arrival on Monday

The President noted that millions of people continue to face unnecessary barriers to travel, which include complicated and expensive visa processes; difficult and therefore expensive transport connections; lack of integrated border management systems; and security threats.

Said the President: “Visa Facilitation has the potential to enhance regional integration, intra-regional trade and easy movement of capital and people between countries and regions. Therefore, visa policies and procedures are among some of the most important instruments influencing tourism and investment”.

She, however, noted that many African governments were taking the lead in resolving some of the cited problems, with Rwanda having implemented an e-visa process and South Africa and Nigeria following suit.

Said the President: “The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has already begun bilateral negotiations to remove visa requirements between member countries.  Last week, while accepting to be Chair of SADC for this year, I indicated that easing the movement of people within our region would be a priority of my term”.

The President informed the delegates that her Government is prioritizing the review of Visa and Permit issuing processes, by among other initiatives, reforming the manual systems and procedures for Visa and Permits applications. She also disclosed that the migration to an online electronic visa system had been completed.

“My Government has also introduced open sky policy to allow more and competitive flights in and out of the country. Furthermore, we have decided to fast track reforms on ease of doing business so that Malawi can be among the top 100 countries in the World Bank Doing Business Ranking in the next two years.

“These reforms are bearing fruit and indeed Malawi has become a place to visit. I am looking forward to seeing Malawi as a regional tourist and transport hub and one of MUST-SEE destinations in the world. In fact, National Geographic Magazine has named Malawi as one of the world top 20 MUST-SEE places in 2013.,” said Banda.

“We have Africa’s liquid asset: the Lake of Stars. Lake Malawi is Africa’s best kept secret, with a large freshwater lake, surrounded by white sands and full of a diversity of fish species unmatched by any other freshwater body.

 

“We have Nyika National Park where more than 200 species of orchids bloom, making this site a prime for orchid lovers and bird-watchers. We have Sapitwa Point on Mulanje Mountain where the daring and adventurous go for mountain climbing.

“And then there are the people.  Malawi’s description as the ‘warm heart of Africa’ does not just refer to our inviting climate or the deep red of our sunset.  It aptly describes the welcome you will receive from all Malawians”.

In her address, the President told delegates that in order to develop the tourism sector, it was also imperative to improve regional interconnectivity.

She said this entailed improving the current state of transport and telecommunications infrastructure and facilitating institutional improvements to optimize the efficiency and capacity of road, rail, water and air transport and the social sectors in education and health.

The President, who assumed the leadership of the regional economic bloc as Chair when Malawi hosted the SADC Heads of State and Government from August 17 to 18, 2013 in Lilongwe, congratulated the Governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia for co-hosting “this great event” in the SADC region.

Tourism has continued to expand and diversify and is now one of the fastest growing industries in the world. The United Nations World Tourism Organization says international tourist arrivals are expected to continue to grow at a sustained pace of 3.3 percent a year on average, reaching 1.8 billion by 2030.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization is the agency of the United Nations responsible for the development of international policies for the tourism sector, in order to facilitate its (tourism) contribution to global economic growth. It currently has 160 member countries.

The UNWTO General Assembly is held biannually on a rotational basis. Participants are member states’ policy makers from relevant ministries and government agencies, supported by the private sector.

President Banda flanked by Vice President Joice Mujuru and Zambia's Vice President Guy Scott at the UNWTO Ministerial Roundtable

President Banda flanked by Vice President Joice Mujuru and Zambia’s Vice President Guy Scott at the UNWTO Ministerial Roundtable

President Banda with Zambia's Vice President Guy Scott

President Banda with Zambia’s Vice President Guy Scott

President Banda, Zimbabwe Vice President and Zimbabwe Foreign Minister enjoy some traditional performances at Victoria Falls International Airport

President Banda, Zimbabwe Vice President and Zimbabwe Foreign Minister enjoy some traditional performances at Victoria Falls International Airport

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