Malawi Tourism Association appeals for loan re-payment reprieve

The Malawi Tourism Association (MTA) has appealed to commercial banks to be kind to its members to renegotiate loan re-payment modes following the decision not to host the African Union summit in July.

Small and large businesses in Malawi are counting their losses following Malawi’s decision not to host the scheduled July 9 to 16 summit.

“The Association would like to appeal to finance lending institutions to assist tourism operators who may be affected by allowing them to re-negotiate re-payment arrangements because the situation has arisen from circumstances beyond their control,” read a statement the association issued in the capital, Lilongwe, Friday, signed by the association president Sam Botomani.

Presidential Hotel which was going to host the delegates

The summit has been moved to Ethiopia after Malawi government’s refusal to allow Sudanese President Omar Hassan al Bashir permission to enter the country.

The southern African country asked the Commission not to invite Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), over charges if genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region.

A number of technical meetings in the days ahead of the summit were lined up to take place in Lilongwe from Jul. 9. The event had promised to turn the otherwise quiet city into a hive of business activity. Up to 35 heads of states and 4,000 delegates were expected to attend and boost the demand for hospitality services and local goods.

Sam Namathanga, president of the Travel Agents Association of Malawi (TAAM), a national grouping of air travel and tour operators, told IPS that the losses for the hospitality industry would be significant. This includes money invested in businesses in preparation for the summit, and estimated future earnings.

“We don’t know the magnitude of the losses yet, but they will be huge. We are talking about loss of business in air ticket sales; ground travel, which includes car hire services; and tour packages, which also includes accommodation,” said Namathanga, according to IPS.

“The tourism industry has lost a big opportunity. We would have greatly promoted the industry through the summit,” said Namathanga.

In a statement, Malawi Tourism Association said it is “aware that many operators will face problems because of the decision (to cancel the summit) and sympathises with members whose businesses will be affected by this situation.”<

Botomani said:”The problem for the tourism private sector is that many of them, particularly those in the catering, accommodation and car hire industries had already spent a lot of money in preparation for the Summit,” he said.

“Some of them obtained commercial loans from banks and other finance lending institutions to carry out renovations and extensions to their properties or to acquire additional equipment in readiness for the big event.”

Botomani urges banks and other lending institutions to appreciate the predicament many operators find themselves in and allow them to renegotiate payment of the loans.

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