Malawi, ironically often described as the Warm Heart of Africa, is bad for both travel and tourism in the world, with the air transport sector infrastructure as one of the worst in the world, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), an international think tank.
The 2015 WEF Travel and Tourism report released recently shows that, out of 141 economies that were surveyed for competitiveness, Malawi ranked 126, doing poorly on health and hygiene, air transport infrastructure, and tourist service infrastructure.
The Warm Heart of Africa endowed with a beautiful lake and rare flora and fauna, did relatively well on safety and security, price competitiveness, environmental sustainability and natural resources. Malawi scored an aggregate of 2.9 out of a possible seven.
Although analysts and stakeholders often look at tourism as one of the sectors that can save Malawi’s struggling economy and dependency on tobacco which is currently facing a bleak future in the wake of anti smoking campaigns, the country only manages to rake in meager amounts from the apparently lucrative sector.
According to the WEF report, Malawi earned about $34 million from 770 000 international tourists in 2013 supporting about 136 000 jobs.
However, neighbouring Zambia raked in $155 million from 915 000 international tourists, while Mozambique received $241 million from 1.9 billion international tourists, in 2013.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, earned $851 million from 1.8 billion international tourists in the same year, according to the report.
Regardless of the importance of the sector and its underutilisation in Malawi, Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe presenting next year’s proposed budget which is pegged at about K902 billion, hardly mentioned the sector.
However, the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) a Malawi government economic blueprint, launched in 2012, notes that topromote the industry, the government will undertake in product development, tourism marketing and promotion, and institutional reform and capacity development.
Tourism analysts, however note that the country has a number of challenges that relate to tourism including limited financial resources which makes it impossible to market Malawi aggressively calling on the improvement on the facilitation of visitors such as visa costs and availability and procedures.