Minister Usi in Turkey, says innovation and culture key to tourism sector’s recovery from COVID-19

Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Michael Usi has said innovation and culture are key to the tourism sector’s recovery strategies from Covid-19.

He was speaking at the ‘Innovation and Investment in Tourism Economy Summit’ in Bodrum, Turkey on June 12, 2021.

The minister said prior to COVID-19, the tourism sector was an emerging industry of influence for economic growth in the world with Latest reports from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) revealing the sector as third largest in the world export category after chemicals and fuels.

“Tourism has, however, been hit by COVID-19; a calamity estimated to have a seven times larger impact than the 2008 financial crisis,” said Usi, adding that the closure of boundaries, lockdown measures and travel restrictions have forced the hospitality sector especially hotels and resorts, to live through its worst results in recent history with regard to financial and job losses.

He added that Malawi as a country has not been spared by the crisis and that the tourism sector in the country, especially hotels and resorts, have seen their income decrease reaching between 85 to 100 percent since February, 2020.

He said the country is, therefore, trying to find innovative ways to reverse the negative drift and bring the sector back to growth.

“Malawi has a diverse and scenic landscape with well stocked game parks and beautiful scenery composed of its mountains and plateaus that make tourism a largely untapped economic resource.

“However, the tourism sector has not been fully harnessed,” said the minister.

Usi noted that in January 2021, Malawi launched a new vision – Vision 2063 – which places tourism among the priority three pillars that will help propel the country’s economic growth within the shortest time possible to graduate into a middle-income economy by 2030, and an upper middle class economy by 2063.

Said Usi: “For this to happen, we plan to create tourism hubs, mostly based around eco-tourism, and secondary tourist cities along the shores of our fresh-water Lake Malawi. We also plan to put together a COVID-19 socio-economic recovery plan, which will among other things, include the digitization of the tourism industry especially with regard to marketing and the whole communication infrastructure in order to remain competitive”.

The minister also highlighted other factors like niching within specific areas of tourism such as eco-tourism; minimization of the bureaucracy of getting investors in tourism establish their investments and the promotion of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in tourism. These, he said, are key investment pillars that would be integral to the development of the tourism sector in Malawi.

He said Malawi is developing a niche in eco-tourism and will soon be branding to be the ‘green warm heart of Africa’ “where no plastics, for example, will be allowed into our well stocked national parks and game reserves.”

Speaking during a panel discussion earlier, Usi highlighted the fact that the success of international tourism is also dependent upon the success of local tourism.

“Culture is a also a very important component of tourism, which is why we need to preserve culture and package it in such a way that it becomes a tool for promoting tourism and a key element in our strategic mix to recover from the impact of COVID-19,” said Usi.

The minister concluded by showing the delegates a 3-minute video highlighting Malawi as an attractive tourist destination. The Malawi delegation included the Director General of the National Planning Commission, Dr. Thomas Munthali.

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