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Hunger publicity to affect tourist inflows into Malawi

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Negative publicity around prospects of hunger in Malawi is likely to affect tourist inflows into Malawi, the Malawi Tourism Association has said.

Malawi Tourism Association chairperson, Stan Phiri, travelers don’t naturally like traveling to places in crisis and that news about food shortages in Malawi will likely put off many tourists who would have wanted to visit the country during the year.

“Prospective tourists will likely divert to other destinations and this will heavily affect revenues for tourism businesses and the country,” said Phiri, who is also managing director for Sunrise Ground Tours.

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President Peter Mutharika early this week declared Malawi a state of disaster following unfavourable weather conditions that have impacted on food production. About 2.9 million are expected to face food shortages in Malawi this year.

Phiri said as news of the hunger spreads around the world, tourist flows to Malawi will dwindle further as over the past year tourist flows were already on the decline after government introduced mandatory visas for some nationals.

“The visa issue bought many cancellations and we anticipate more now that Malawi is facing its worst drought in a decade,” he said.

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In October, 2015, Malawi introduced a new visa regime on all tourists from countries that charge visa fees on Malawians visiting their countries.

At the time, the Malawi Council of Tourism claimed that the tourism industry lost close to US$1.2 million in booking cancellations.

Official statistics indicate that in 2014, Malawi received about 800,000 visitors, of which 160,000 or 20 percent were leisure tourists while the rest come for business or family purposes.

However, the Malawi government still expects the contribution of the tourism sector to Malawi’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to increase from eight to 13 percent by the year 2018.

Experts say for Malawi to meet its growth targets for tourism, it needs to invest heavily in destination marketing and improved infrastructure that could make the country conducive and attractive for tourists.

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