LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-The players in the tourism industry are gearing up for this year’s tourism expo expected to attract foreign tour operators, bring in foreign exchange and increase the country’s visibility on the global tourism map.

Director of tourism Isaac Katopola this week justified the holding of the conference from April 26 to 28 to attract more buyers and push for inclusion of the country’s holiday packages in the next holiday season which globally starts from June.

He assured tourism players that this year’s expo will be bigger and better in terms of targeted buyers, exhibitors, activities, entertainment and other outdoor events.

Katopola noted that Malawi is now popular on the international scene through a similar event last year; hence, ensuring to make the best of this year.

“Our tourism has received positive reviews in reputable travel publications such as Forbes Travel, the Guardian and Vogue among others. We got package recommendations and accolades as one of the top 15 best coolest places to visit in 2018 from some of the buyers that were hosted and there have also been continuous feedback since October, 2017,” he said.

According to Katopola, exhibitors in the previous tourism expo indicated that they clinched immediate and medium deals to host regional and international tourists in the country.

In an interview on Friday, Malawi Tourism Council (MTC) chairperson Oswald Bwemba said industry players expect that the expo will be even better than last year.

“Such events create an opportunity for operators to make business deals. It is one way of showcasing your business to the world.

“Tourism has great potential to contribute towards economic growth of the country only if that potential is truly harnessed,” he said.

Bwemba called for deliberate tourism policies to ensure tourism growth, competitive incentives from short, medium to long-term depending on the type of investment such as accommodation, car hire, water sports and tour operator business.

The country held the first ever tourism expo from August 30 to September 1 2017, attracting over 80 local, regional and international exhibitors and a combined total of about 25 foreign buyers.

The event provided a platform for the country to showcase its tourism products as well as opportunity for local, regional and international buyers to discuss how best to package the country’s tourism products for increased product awareness and eventual returns.

Tourism is an important sector in the country’s economy and according to the Malawi Government Annual Economic Report 2017, the sector contributed about K289 billion or 7.2 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) with about 217 000 jobs contributed by the sector.

According to the National Statistical Office (NSO), the country received about 804 000 visitors in 2016, through which it generated MK23 billion visitor exports, representing 1.6 percent of total exports.

This was forecast to grow by 4.9 percent last year, and grow by 2.8 percent per year over a 10-years period.

In 2016, tourism sector contributed four percent of total investments, accounting for MK20.4 billion and this was expected to rise by 3.7 percent in 2017.