See also:
» 20.11.2009 - Malawi’s rural land development project gets additional funding
» 05.06.2009 - Epic rescue for endangered elephants in Malawi resumes
» 23.04.2009 - Air Malawi faces closure
» 08.04.2009 - Muluzi battling 'shame and glory' in courts
» 29.08.2008 - Malawi's budget finally approved
» 11.08.2008 - Malawi holed up in another budget crisis
» 29.05.2008 - Madonna wins Malawi adoption right
» 21.05.2008 - 'Regional integration cardinal in addressing energy shortage'

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Economy - Development | Politics | Travel - Leisure

Malawi's tourism efforts "in a shambles"

Misanet / The Chronicle, 19 April - Reports by Malawi's independent weekly 'The Chronicle' about the Department of Tourism some weeks ago has caused reactions. Officials at the government department in letters to the editor confirm that Malawi's tourism efforts are "in a shambles" due to "unsupervised recruitment and promotions, favouritism and nepotism." Also tourists visiting Malawi complain.

'The Chronicle' newspaper, Malawi's leading independent media, recently reported about chaotic conditions in the national Department of Tourism, which is supposed to promote Malawi as a tourist destination under the slogan "Malawi - the Warm Heart of Africa". Tourism had been singled out as one of Malawi's most promising growth industries, but the sector has failed to bring growth to the poor country.

According to a "concerned tourism officer" at Malawi's Department of Tourism, writing to the editor of 'The Chronicle', the newspaper's recent revelations about the department were correct. During the former government, the Department was a Ministry with "its own clear vision as a viable alternative for the foreign exchange earner tobacco," the officer complains. "I do not believe this vision was ever shared by the Parliamentary Secretary and his directors, the result of which was the relegation of the Ministry to just a Department under The Ministry of Information," he adds.

According to the insider, "there are serious management failures at the department. Most the failures are due to unsupervised recruitment and promotions, favouritism and nepotism," he alleges. The recent employment of 13 new staff members, for example, had seen thousands applying but "only those related to someone at the Department were selected for the job."

While Malawi's new government had set up an Anti-Corruption Bureau to look into these anomalies, they anomalies still went unchecked in practical terms. "Discipline at the Department is impossible to administer, because everybody is related to someone senior," the insider writes. This had caused industry partners and staff at the Department of Tourism to lose confidence in the Director of Tourism.

- Tourists numbers have been tumbling for a number of consecutive years and nobody seems to care, the letter to 'The Chronicle' goes on. Earlier, British Airways and KLM had found Malawi to be a lucrative destination with many people travelling to and from this 'Warm Heart of Africa'. "Where are these airlines now? All the successful tourist destinations have direct long haul flights and completely bypass Malawi because we have done nothing to help us be competitive," he adds.

To give "an insight of what tourists think about our industry," the 'concerned tourism officer' included a letter from a disappointed British tourist, complaining about the Department's poor work and presentation.

The letter from the British tourist in particular mentioned the "disgrace" appearance of the Malawi High Commission Office in London, which he expected to be the "shop window" of Malawi in the UK. "The Malawi flag flying outside was so dirty that I did not recognise it. The brass plaque, bearing the name of the Malawi High Commission, had not been polished for years and the door was locked at 10.00 am in the morning. The curtains hanging in the front window thread bare and filthy dirty, obviously the curtains and windows not been washed for years," the Briton writes.

He found no valuable and updated information on Malawi on the government's Internet sites. At the London High Commission Offices, "there were no maps or any other information available," he adds. "The lack of tourist information is a function of lack of planning and is inexcusable."

Arriving in Malawi with his wife, the British couple was shocked by the impression of Lilongwe International Airport, which appeared "run down and in need of some care." Travelling with a rented car, he found no road signs to his destinations, roads were generally poor and the "lack of good petrol stations with clean toilets will do nothing to encourage tourists to explore your beautiful country," he noted.

On the positive side, the Briton however noted the beauty of Malawi, Malawi nationals who were "very friendly and most helpful" and some privately-owned tourism complexes such as Club Makokola at the shore of Lake Malawi. "This resort has managed to retain its high standard," the Briton noted. Also the country's tourism potential was clear, he assured, given concerted efforts by the government and the industry.

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