Malawi is still struggling to tap from the global tourism boom since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, with figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) indicating a 57.3 percent slump in 2021 alone in international visitor spending.
WTTC figures show that during the year under review, Malawi generated $14.6 million from international visitor spending, a decline from the previous year’s $34.2 million.
Before the pandemic in 2019, Malawi generated $64.7 million in international visitor spending, which is 47 percent less of what the country generated in 2020.
However, despite the decline, Malawi’s tourism industry performance slightly improved in 2021, with the sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product rising to 5.8 percent, generating about K580 billion ($512.8 million).
In a written response on Monday, Malawi Tourism Council chairperson Jones Malili said the fact that the sector performed well despite the shrinking international patronage shows that the industry can thrive on domestic tourism other than relying on international tourists.
He said: “This is an opportune time for government and the private sector to work together to explore ways of making domestic tourism more attractive and cheaper for the local Malawians to be encouraged to travel.
“The tourism industry suffered with massive job losses out of slowed business and closure of some other tourism operators. We saw a lot of institutions hiring back some retrenched staff and expect the situation to improve in the current financial year as tourism business seems to pick up even more.”
In the sub Saharan region, the industry’s performance was mixed.
While Guinea ($3.9 million), Angola ($83.1 million), Ghana ($674.3 million) and Uganda ($101 million) saw their international visitor spending rise by 721 percent, 265 percent, 228 percent, 107 percent, respectively, Democratic Republic of Congo ($22.6 million, Madagascar ($75.5 million), Lesotho ($1,9 million) and Mauritius ($182.1 million) saw their international visitor spending decline to 69.9 percent, 64 percent, 63 percent and 62 percent, respectively.
Neighbours Zimbabwe ($69.9 million) and Tanzania ($1.2 billion) saw their international visitor spending contribution rise by 6.4 percent and 24 percent while South Africa ($1.9 billion) and Zambia saw a decline of 40.4 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
In a separate interview, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Michael Usi observed that the pandemic has made local tourism businesses more innovative with many diversifying their product and service offers.
“Following the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the tourism industry worldwide in 2020, the industry’s downward spiral stopped around mid- 2021.
“This was mainly due to the global and local lifting of travel restrictions following vaccination of people against the pandemic,” he said.
WTTC projects global travel and tourism GDP to reach pre-pandemic levels by 2023, just 0.1 percent below 2019 levels.
Before the pandemic, the sector’s contribution to GDP was 10.3 percent ($9.6 trillion) in 2019, falling to 5.3 percent (about $4.8 trillion) in 2020 when the pandemic was at its height, which represented a staggering 50 percent loss.