Tourism Committee for Northern Malawi says there is need to set up a special financial facility where tourism service providers could access loans at a reasonable interest, to enable them develop their tourism facilities to international standards.
The committee’s sentiments come against the background that a majority of owners of tourism facilities in the region fail to develop their facilities to required standards that can attract a lot of tourists.
Chairperson of the committee, Malidadi Kapusa Mkandawire, said though owners of the tourism service centres have the will to develop their facilities, high bank interest rates remain a big deterrent for them to do so.
“Government and stakeholders in the tourism sector should consider setting up a special revolving fund that tourism service providers could access at a reasonable interest rate, and then we can have better facilities,” said Mkandawire.
“In this way, security of the money borrowed would be guaranteed because it would be invested into physical structures,” he added.
Mkandawire also asked for a tax-waiver for all materials and items relating to tourism development. This, he said, could ease efforts that are geared towards developing the tourism industry.
Currently, the tourism industry is highly regarded as one of the potential replacements of the dwindling tobacco-growing industry as a major foreign- exchange earner for the country.
While acknowledging that a number of tourism facilities in the region are not accessible due to poor road infrastructure, Mkandawire also noted that most are not accessible by the physically challenged.
Last year’s (2016) theme of the World Tourism Day was ‘Tourism for All, Promoting Universal Accessibility’.
Formation of the Tourism Committee for Northern Malawi was initiated by the Tourism Department ahead of the 2016 World Tourism Day, with the initial aim of organizing activities of that event at regional level.
However, the department decided to sustain it so that it continues to assist in activities to do with the development and improvement of tourism services offered in the region.
“The current perception is that tourism is only for foreigners. The tourism committee will assist in educating people that tourism is for all,” said Regional Tourism Officer for the North, Michael Chigaga.
He observed that there was knowledge gap between the Tourism Department and tourism service providers, to the extent that when the department’s officials visited tourism facilities for inspection, they were viewed as adversaries by the owners.
“With the tourism committee, which is mainly composed of owners of tourism facilities, we hope the gap will no longer be there,” added the tourism officer.
Among other tasks, the committee is expected to promote standardization of tourism facilities like lodges and food. It will also help to sensitize the general public on what tourism products are offered in the region.
“Right now, there is no standardization of tourism facilities, everyone does it their own way,” observed Chigaga, adding his department would facilitate registration of the committee with the Malawi Tourism Council to give it mandate in its work.
Once well established, the tourism committee is expected to make efforts to ensure tourism products are accessible, in good state and that structures are easily accessible by all, including the physically challenged.
However, the grouping really has to find other means of financial resources to develop their tourism facilities to the required standards and boost tourism in the region.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :