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Covid-19 knocks hospitality sector

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Players in the hospitality industry have given up on resuscitating business in the remaining half of the year as they continue operating on losses due to Covid-19 pandemic.

A snap survey by The Business Times has established that some uptown hotels in the country have lost up to 90 percent of their business in the past two months alone.

Malawi Stock Exchange-listed Sunbird Hotels and Resorts, said business started normal this year but drastically fell after the country started observing restrictions on gatherings between March and April.

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In an interview Tuesday, Sunbird Hotels and Resorts Chief Executive Officer, Yusuf Olela, said the lockdown in other countries has a huge bearing to the industry.

“Due to lockdown in source markets such as the United Kingdom, United States and in South Africa, Kenya, the numbers just gone down even before the Malawi government started putting measures to restrict movement.

“The outlook is even worse because even if the pandemic was to ease, businesses will not rebound overnight, we may be having recovery in 2021,” Olela said.

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In a separate interview, Ryalls Hotel General Manager, David Church, said the firm has lost over 90 percent its business.

“We have tried to be more creative. For example, our restaurant is operating but offering take away services. We have converted our conference rooms into top of the range video conferencing centres and we are also offering catering services outside the hotel premises just to keep the business running,” Church said.

He then said the outlook remains mixed and murky.

Tourism is among the hardest-hit sectors in local economy due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Wildlife, Isaac Katopola, said the ministry is still working on strategies to stabilise the tourism businesses.

He said the Malawi Tourism Council recently approached the government with several request to help address the challenges and that the government is working towards addressing them.

“Effects of the pandemic are unprecedented and have never been experienced before,” Katopola said.

Coincidently, a recent report by the World Travel and Tourism Council show that contribution from the sector to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) went down by 1.7 percentage point to 6.7 percent in 2019 from 7.7 percent.

The sector’s growth also slowed to 3.2 percent of GDP during the year compared to 3.3 percent growth registered a year before.

Recently the International Monetary Fund (IMF) slashed Malawi’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate for 2020 from five percent to 1 percent, due to the impact of Covid-19.

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