Perspectives and Insights on the Standards of Tourism in Malawi

Perspectives and Insights on the Standards of Tourism in Malawi

Nyika National Park

The WITH Project is timely for the Malawi tourism industry as it aims to skill and empower a new generation of climate and sustainability conscious women intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs and business owners to succeed in the tourism and hospitality industry in Sub-Saharan Africa.

   Malawi, one of the partner countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, is endowed with a variety of natural attractions, including the stunning Lake Malawi, mount Mulanje, and national parks like Liwonde and Nyika. These attractions draw tourists interested in wildlife, adventure, and outdoor activities. Tourist activities include water sports, mountain hiking, bird watching, fishing, and cultural activities including traditional dances. Malawi is also well known for the exceptionally friendly and welcoming nature of its people.

   The existence of such natural attractions should translate to large volumes of tourists visiting the country; however, this is not the case. Malawi received a pre-pandemic average of 800,000 visitors annually (Malawi Tourism Investment Masterplan, 2022) with 70% of these visitors coming for professional and business reasons. There are multiple reasons for this including inadequate tourism infrastructure, limited marketing and promotion, limited product diversification, and low standards mostly due to regulatory and administrative challenges.

Tourism Standards: Building blocks for a competitive tourism industry

The significance of standards in the tourism sector cannot be overstated. Standards form the fundamental building blocks for product development. They provide a benchmark for service quality, ensuring consistency and reliability in the delivery of services across the industry. They also promote the development of competitive tourist destinations in the country and enhance customer experience.

Mulanje Mountain

What is contributing to poor standards in the sector?

Malawi’s tourism services fall within the categories of accommodation, food and beverage, travel and attractions. However, most tourism establishments operate on insufficient or outdated infrastructure which translates to low-quality service and unsatisfactory guest experience. Additionally, the industry is littered with poorly trained staff and tourism managers. For example, there are many tour guides who are not fluent in important international languages and lack an understanding of the tourism products available in Malawi.

“The people who work in the hospitality industry are rarely trained, because employers run away from paying someone what is due to them preferring to go for cheap labour. So, the demand of someone who’s more qualified in that industry is very low.”

VET Expert and Entrepreneur

The regulatory framework is also weak. Players in the sector lack clear guidelines for ensuring safety, environmental sustainability and service quality and may therefore neglect standards without facing consequences.

“The laws and regulations are not observed by entrepreneurs and investors, for instance, people just build substandard infrastructure, anywhere they like. There is no coordination and order.”

Industry expert

Lake Malawi

What should be done?

1.

There is a need to increase the quantity and quality of trained staff, supervisors, and managers. The WITH Project aims to reinforce the personal and social competences of young people operating businesses in the sector. Through this project, young women will acquire the necessary skills required to run successful businesses that meet the demands of the local and international market. Soft skills such as communication, leadership, creativity and resource mobilisation, will enable these entrepreneurs to deliver good standard services that enhance customer satisfaction.  Additionally, VET trainers/ institutions will be better equipped to deliver high quality training, ensuring that future professionals in the sector are adequately trained to meet industry standards.

“The quality of training in the industry needs to be improved and standardised to suit global standards”

Entrepreneur

2.

Formulation of effective policies, robust regulations, and elevated standards is essential for Malawi to optimise its unique cultural and natural treasures and foster a thriving tourism industry. Malawi is already in the process of developing a new Hotels and Tourism Act which will go a long way towards improving the regulatory landscape.

“One of the things the new Hotels and Tourism act will do is it will create what they’re calling Malawi Tourism Authority, it will be created by passing this act in Parliament. So, the authority will oversee two major things; marketing Malawi as a tourism destination and enforcing standards and licensing in the industry. The authority will be responsible of licensing and standards and marketing”

Industry expert

The anticipated establishment of the Malawi Tourism Authority brings hope that the Malawi tourism sector will improve its product and service offerings which will increase its chances of growing and thriving. 

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