Minister of Information Tourism and Culture, Kondwani Nankhumwa Tuesday said expensive jet fuel and lack of airline connectivity both within and across the country is affecting growth of the tourism sector of the country.
Nankhumwa said this in Lilongwe during an inter-ministerial networking dinner organized to find solutions to the challenges facing the sector which he said have the potential to contribute significantly to the development of the country.
He said; “This meeting follows several other consultative conferences we have had with several stakeholders from the airline service, accommodation, car hire, travel agencies and other tour operators.
“You may wish to know that during those consultative meetings, it was found out that there are some areas that we needed to collaborate and improve on; for instance jet fuel which is so expensive forcing the airline operators to sometimes refuel in other countries other than here in Malawi,” the minister explained.
The expensiveness of the aviation fuel is believed to have a direct impact on the cost of air tickets, making the country the most expensive destination to fly to.
Nankhumwa also bemoaned poor airport infrastructure which he said is below international standards thereby calling for a complete restructuring of the civil aviation sector to promote efficiency and effectiveness of the airport operations and infrastructure.
The minister also said easy access to tourism was another critical area of tourism growth and complained that current restrictions built into current bilateral air services agreement in areas such as access and frequency; reduce the contribution that of the airlines make to trade, tourism and economic growth.
This, according to the minister, results into high airline fares due to limited seat availability, inflexible tour packages and tourist inconveniences as they have to spend time traveling.
“We need to increase international flight frequencies into the country and ensure that slots are properly managed to avoid congestion and increase domestic air services to connect all tourism destinations,” said Nankhumwa.
Other areas that were identified to have a direct impact on the growth of tourism included visa application policy which is supposed to be reformed, low funding which has impacted on the marketing strategy, development of access roads to tourists attractions and development of a comprehensive legal framework for effective management of the sector.
Lack of a joint stakeholder working group is another are that was blamed for the slowed development of the tourism industry.
Present during the networking dinner was, Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Paul Chibingu, Minister of Natural Resources Energy and Mining, Atupele Muluzi and Minister Transport and Public Works, Francis Kasaila.
These ministers promised to support the tourism industry realizing the potential it has for the economic development of the country.
“We promise to support you sir in all areas of need,” said Muluzi.