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Policies hinder tourism growth

Malawi Tourism Council (MTC) and its affiliates have urged the government to review some of its policies and tax regimes, which are said to be hindering growth of the tourism sector.

Of late, Malawi has been seen to be making progress in terms of repositioning the tourism industry to facilitate growth as a way of increasing its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product.

Speaking on the sidelines of a stakeholders’ meeting which MTC organised for Eastern Region tourism players, MTC Executive Director, Elsie Tembo, said the council intends to lobby the government to make some policies responsive to emerging regional market challenges.

Of particular concern, Tembo mentioned the cost of visa costs which people who visit Malawi are supposed to pay. She said the cost is relatively high compared to other countries in the region.

“We are the only country which is charging $75 for visa because all our friends in the region charge around $50. So this becomes a problem because clients are more price sensitive; as such, our visa cost is working to our disadvantage,” Tembo said.

She also indicated that the council would be meeting the government to negotiate tax exemption to accommodate new entrants with less than 50 rooms. At the moment, only those constructing units above 50 rooms get some tax relief from the government.

Tembo was optimistic that the MTC would find means of increasing participation of Malawians in tourism, which, she said, is dominated by corporate customers.

“We want our operators to rethink their pricing strategies to allow participation of locals in order to increase domestic tourism [customers] from the current 75 percent. We are aware of people’s concerns that our services are relatively higher,” Tembo said.

Mulangeni Holiday Resort Managing Director, Patricia Lunguzi, defended charges imposed by tourism players on customers.

“We pay a lot of taxes that if we can include all of them into our prices, it could be higher for local people. We appeal to the government to try to harmonise taxes and levies so that we are left with breathing space for growth,” she said.

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