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Tourism Ministry end surprises stakeholders

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Some commentators have expressed surprise at government’s decision to remove the Ministry of Tourism portfolio among the list of ministries and incorporate it under Industry and Trade.

They argue that in most parts of the world, tourism is considered key to economic growth, which requires a dedicated minister and officials to oversee it.

Institute for Policy Interaction (IPA) executive director, Rafiq Hajat, said tourism holds the key to Malawi’s future prosperity and needs a dedicated ministry to oversee it functions.

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“Malawi has potential for a successful tourism industry but the sector has not been developed as it should yet the same sector is a major foreign exchange earner in countries like Kenya,” he said.

He said the government has failed to provide a conducive environment for the tourism industry, saying the cost of having a holiday in Malawi is far higher than in other countries that are far better equipped.

On his part, economist Nelson Mkandawire said the Ministry of Tourism—when it existed, was already struggling to position Malawi as an attractive tourist destination, saying incorporating it under another ministry would only make things worse.

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He said the Ministry of Industry and Trade already has its plate full considering how vital it is to the Malawi economy.

“Government needs to rethink this decision because it is clear that one minister will not have the capacity to supervise these two key sectors,” he noted.

“What we should be doing instead is to boost the tourism ministry by investing more resources into it, both human and capital,” said Mkandawire.

Chancellor College Economics professor Ben Kalua said the Ministry of Industry and Trade in Malawi is already incapacitated and that adding another portfolio to it is just suicidal for the economy.

Kalua says unless government is prepared to channel more resources to the Ministry of Trade to handle its new responsibilities, then he does not see the new arrangement working.

However, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Joseph Mwanamvekha is optimistic that his ministry will be able to oversee both portfolios, arguing that the two sectors are complementary.

He said his first duty would be to review the Tourism Policy so that it reflects new developments in the sector.

Government 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.

But while government has set a target of wooing one million visitors to Malawi’s shores annually, as of 2014 the country only received about 800,000 visitors and out of which, only about 160,000 were leisure travelers while the rest were coming for business or to see family.

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