MZUZU-(MaraviPost)-Malawi’s tourism sector continues to register a drop due to corruption in the entry ports and high visa charges compared to neighboring countries.
Government introduced a US$75 visa fee in September 2015 where foreign nationals from countries that demand visas from Malawians to also start paying for the same.
The arrangement excludes foreign nationals from Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).
While Malawi’s single country visa fee is pegged at US$75, neighbours such as Zambia and Zimbabwe entered into a one-visa agreement through which tourists enter several countries at a single fee of $50. The arrangement is the same in East Africa where tourists visit various countries at a single fee pegged at $50.
But at the time, government through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism downplayed the impact the fees, arguing that it will not have any effect on tourists.
However, according to Malawi Tourism Council (MTC) Malawi has been placed at a tight corner as far as tourism is concerned as tourists chop it out from their destinations opting for lower visa fee tourist destinations.
Speaking in an interview on the sidelines of a tourism stakeholder’s consultative meeting in Mzuzu on Thursday where the council is seeking views from its members on its legal frameworks among others.
MTC director Elsie Tembo said the number of tourists visiting the country is declining.
“When the fee was just introduced in 2015, we received a lot of complaints from tourists. Thereafter we have been experiencing a drop in the numbers. Tourists are now opting for our neighbouring countries with lower fees,” said Tembo.
She then disclosed that the council plans to initiate discussions with government on the possibilities of lowering the visa in line with other countries.
“As a country, we are now losing out because tourists are cancelling Malawi out from their list of destinations while preferring our neighbours,” she emphasised.
She said the visa fee is also discouraging tourists from visiting the country as families.
Tembo said there is need for Malawi to grow the number of tourists visiting the country, currently at about 800 000.
Tourism director Isaac Katopola confimed to the Nation Newspaper that government is aware of the challenges the higher visa fees are bringing to the sector.
He said his department produced a paper on the same and has since initiated a discussion with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security where the Department of Immigration falls under and the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development.
“Yes we are all in government but there are different ministries or departments that have various mandates. Although the issue of visa is not directly under our mandate, it impacts on tourism. I am however sure these two ministries have their own reasons for doing so,” explained Katopola.
However Katopola explained that it is important to look at what other countries are doing when making decisions concerning tourism saying Zambia’s single entry visa fee is US$50 while multiple is US$75 while Malawi is at US$75 for single entry and US$150 for multiple entry.
“Tourists make decisions based on that; hence through our minister these issues were raised and comparisons on the visas were explained as well,” he explained