Players in the tourism industry say the spread of coronavirus globally affecting the local tourism industry as business is grounding to a halt due to fears of travel for leisure and business meetings.
Department of Tourism director Isaac Katopola said in a written response on Friday that Covid-19 is having a negative impact on the local tourism and travel industry following restrictions on global travel.
He said: “Tour operators and accommodation units are complaining of cancellations from Europe and America due to travel restrictions. Conferences and meetings have been cancelled for now affecting occupancy in hotels.
“Airlines are also affected due to low numbers of passengers. The directive by health authorities to quarantine visitors from high-risk countries like China, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom also has negative effects on tourism though important.”
Malawi Tourism Council (MTC) chairperson Tim Van Der Linden said in a written response on Friday that all operators are receiving an abnormal high number of cancellations and outstanding enquiries are not getting confirmed.
He said: “Our prognosis is that it will be a difficult year for most operators. We should mark here that this is a global problem and that good health for all is the most important thing.
“The 14-day self quarantine for international travellers is needed and seems [well] organised by government. Unfortunately, it will decrease the number of tourists visiting our country which will affect the whole tourist sector in Malawi”.
South African Airways (SAA) team leader responsible for commercial sales for Lilongwe market Lawrence Gwaza confirmed that their business is suffering on the back of Covid-19.
He said: “We have been negatively affected because most of our aircrafts are going empty. Most of the conferences have been cancelled because passengers are afraid to travel.”
Government recognises tourism as a priority sector that can be used as a vehicle for economic growth and poverty alleviation as outlined in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) III.
Currently, tourism contributes eight percent to the country’s growth domestic product (GDP) and efforts are underway by the government to increase its contribution to the economy.
According to 2017 official tourism statistics, 835 000 international tourists visited Malawi out of which 22 percent visited the country for purposes of leisure, 68 percent for business, conferences and meetings, with the rest visiting friends and relatives, among others reasons.
The virus has rapidly spread from China to European countries and recently reported in some African countries, including South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco and Tunisia. n