Good people, CNN Travel has rated Malawi among top five places to go for Americans escaping warm weather in the Northern Hemisphere.
In fact, the Warm Heart of Africa ranks fifth in the global chart topped by Memphis in the US, Bali in Indonesia, Lisbon in Portugal and Peru.
The rating is good news for Department of Tourism workforce whose main job is to market Malawi as an irresistible tourism destination with stunning sights to offer.
Tourism marketing in Malawi is really about drawing the attention of the fast-globalising world to the good, the better and the very best that this tropical savanna country which has come to be ill associated with hunger, diseases and corruption.
This is what key stakeholders in the country, including the media, are failing to do with zest, astuteness and consistency for maximum results.
The CNN list is a huge endorsement of great go-to places Malawi rarely talks about.
Elsewhere, a similar feat would be the first thing every planeload and busload of arrivals would hear at any port of entry.
Not here! Not yet.
In this part of Africa, below the Sahara Desert, Kenyans are star performers when it comes to selling places of interest to potential buyers, both willing and unwilling.
When you are in the capital, Nairobi, and surrounding towns, Kenyans will take it upon themselves to invite you to visit Mount Kilimanjaro and nearby stunners.
Such is their persuasion, zeal and insistence that you would think the whole mass of the continent’s tallest mountain is in Kenya, yet it is just a slope that inches into the east African country where everything good about it has been monetised.
The last time I looked up Kilimanjaro in an atlas, the hikers’ paradise was predominantly located in Tanzania where the locals are almost as timid as Malawians when marketing their stunners to a global audience that mostly favours those who make necessary noise about their offerings.
The Kenyan example offers numerous lessons when it comes to promoting tourist attractions.
Malawians can do as much to dial up traffic to Mount Mulanje that startling sleeping giant in the sky currently ranked the continent’s third-largest mountain and the second most visited attraction in the country (only rivalled by Lake Malawi).
The who-is-who compiled by CNN is a rare feat, a free promotion that Malawi does not hear every day.
However, the country does not have to wait for international media to tell the world that Lake Malawi, Mulanje, Cape Maclear and Majete Wildlife Reserve are places to visit when escaping the boredoms of everyday life.
While this country seems to take pride in keeping mum and underinvesting in its top tourist attraction—the crystal clear lake which CNN named a “top drawer”— fast-runners in Zambia and Zimbabwe, who share spoils from Victoria Falls, are cashing in on boat rides in a river that offers a little more than our Shire.
Every season, pilgrims and tourists blow a fortune to visit the hugely advertised river. How much more would they spend on Lake Malawi, the continent’s third-largest freshwater lake, if it was properly promoted and developed?
But like President Peter Mutharika said after gulping a lot of tobacco fumes at Lilongwe Auction Floors a few years back, lino ndi dziko la fodya (we are a tobacco country).
Malawi is not just too dependent on tobacco to diversify its forex earners but also inebriated by the leaf that kills seven billion people globally that the touted dream to substitute it with tourism seems to be up in smoke—suffocated at birth. n