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Bushiri’s Crossover Ceremony exposes need for construction of more hotels in Lilongwe
December 31, 2023 / Christopher Jimu Chegutu

Shortage of decent accommodation in Lilongwe due to drastic increase in the number of foreign tourists that have travelled to the City mainly to attend the Crossover crusade presided over by renowned prophet Shepherd Bushiri of the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) on December 31, 2023 has exposed the need for construction of more hotels in the Capital City.

Sunbird Hotels Marketing Manager Temwa Kanjadza confirmed that the number of visitors in the Group’s hotels in Lilongwe has soared as many foreigners have entered Lilongwe to attend Crossover ceremonies for ECG, Glorious Light International of Bishop Abraham Simama and Good News Ministry of Prophet Gondwe, among others.

Said Kanjadza.”It is true we have seen an upsurge in the number of occupants in our two hotels in Lilongwe (Sunbird Capital and Lilongwe). Though other visitors are merely on holiday this being a festive season, I know some are also here because of the overnight crusades as religious tourists and we are happy with that.”

Kanjadza, however, could not be drawn to disclose the exact number of foreign occupants in the two hotels saying it is confidential.

ECG Public Relations Officer Aubrey Kusakala said they have received visitors from as far as the USA, Australia, Germany, UK, Canada, Nigeria, South Africa. Zambia and Zimbabwe, just to mention a few.

”We are expecting to have over 15,000 international visitors. These visitors have filled up most of the lodges and hotels in Mponela, Dowa and Lilongwe. Some are in private homes while those travelling by bus will arrive on the 31st and will return soon after the Crossover on January 1, 2024, which is dubbed Wealth Transfer,” said Kusakala.

Mponela has seen an increase in the number of tourism establishments with its close proximity to the city of Lilongwe an added advantage.

The town has hotels such as Linde, Kalipano and Chikho plus a good number of beautiful lodges.

Kusakala was also hopeful that after attending the church service, the visitors will be able to go to tourism attractions such as Lake Malawi, the crocodile farm and Start Grant cichlids fishery in Salima, Mulanje Mountain, Kalipano Hotel in Dowa, Ku Chawe Inn, as well as tea estates in  in Thyolo and Mulanje, and Mulanje Mountain.

Founder of Glorious Light International Church Bishop Abraham Simama explained to  Mining and Review that there are also expecting many visitors coming from neighbouring countries with some coming from as far as Nigeria.

“This year’s Crossover will be one of the best and we are expecting a huge number of visitors. We just praise God for his grace which has taken us this far. From Nigeria we will have Prophetes Yinka and Anne who were inspired by the late Prophet TB Joshua who also mentored me,” said Simama who is also owner of Simama Hotel.

Glorius Light International Pastor Salim Chankhwantha said his church will receive many visitors from Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia and Tanzania to attend the crossover.

Good News Ministries of Prophet Gondwe has also not been left behind as it is receiving visitors who normally follow church proceedings on Facebook, according to the Church administrator Benson Katsekela and church member Grace Alli.

Minister of tourism Vera Kamtukule said she is very much excited with the increased number of people coming to Malawi as the year is coming to an end.

She said the development has come at the right time when the country is working hard to position itself as the prime destination for tourists in this part of Africa.

Said Kamtukule: ”As a Minister I am very happy that we are able to attract tourists. This shows that we are on the right track. There are several tourism areas we can attract people into such as sports, music as well as religion. I would love to see many visitors coming even during Easter Holidays.”

The Minister said she will give all the necessary support to players in the tourism sector so that visitors should always feel the warm heart of Africa whenever they are in Malawi.

“When these visitors come, whether for religious purposes or otherwise they will also visit places of attraction and spend some forex. Malawi is beautiful and we must all play our roles to market this country,” said Kantukule who disclosed that she is aware of 15,000 visitors coming to attend the ECG Crossover.

Chegutu Lodge taking Dedza tourism to another level
December 22, 2023 / Christopher Jimu Chegutu

Chegutu is a district in Zimbabwe where the first President of Malawi Hastings Kamuzu Banda stayed at one point in the 1960’s before Malawi’s independence.

In the 1960’s Chegutu was known as Hartley. But as one way of keeping history, Entrepreneur Cassim Alli has opened Chegutu Lodge in Dedza.

Alli says he wants to still be connected to Zimbabwe where his father once worked in the mines.

He says though construction of the lodge is yet to finish with the structure now 90 percent, he has been pressured by clients yearning for quality accommodation in the district to open earlier than planned.

Charges for the eight rooms that are operational range from K10,000 up to K15,000 and they are all self-contained, fully tiled, spacious and cozy.

With a fully stocked restaurant, customers can order any meal they want for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Said Alli in an interview: “Dedza being a frontier town needs modern facilities and I was compelled to build the lodge here because of demand. Travelers from Zimbabwe, South Africa and even Mozambique pass through Dedza. In some instances, the travelers spend a night or two here and they need quality accommodation. The town is growing and on top of that there are tourist attractions such as Chongoni painted rocks, Dedza Pottery and Kungoni, sites that attract tourists.”

Dedza is also home to renowned secondary schools such as Dedza and Marist.

The two schools have produced distinguished individuals in society including top politicians and presidents.

“Dedza has a rich history and there are many individuals who have shaped their careers here or live in this district. We want to expand this facility and currently a hall is under construction and once completed we will be holding conferences, weddings and even other social gatherings,” said Alli.

The lodge is situated along the Blantyre-Lilongwe M1 road very close to the dip tank. It is also near a service station, shops, banks and other important facilities in Dedza including Ashley’s Bar, the Dedza Stadium and a coffee shop.

A regular customer to the facility Elliot Joloza was candid and frank in his assessment of the new lodge saying it has brought new standards in the hospitality industry in the district.

“This place is secure, close to the main road, has modern facilities and the staff are also very friendly. Every time I am sleeping over in Dedza I spend my nights at this lodge,” said Joloza.

He then called on government to assist up and coming businesses with loans so that they can expand and offer more employment opportunities to Malawians.

“When we talk of 1-million jobs we want Malawians such as Alli to be able to access loans so that they can employ many people. In that way they will be able to help government reduce unemployment,” said Joloza.

Malawi to hold tourism expo
February 14, 2023 / Wahard Betha

After three-year hiatus due to Covid-19 pandemic, Malawi’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife has announced that it will host the fourth Takulandilani Malawi International Tourism Exposition (MITE) from April 26 to 27 this year at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe.

The Ministry’s Public Relations Officer Simon Mbvundula said in an interview that the hosting of the international tourism fair will assist the country to market its tourism brand.

Mbvundula said: “A tourism fair brings buyers and sellers together in one place and facilitates face to face meetings and conclusion of deals.”

“It provides a cost effective platform for local operators who might not have had the chance to transact business to come face to face with international buyers.”

“Hosting of buyers from all over the world also provides an opportunity for the international and regional buyers to sample and experience the destination.”

“This provides them an invaluable opportunity to experience what their clients would experience when they visit the destination and also equip them to better appreciate and manage problems their clients would meet when they visit the destination.”

Mbvundula also said the tourism fair brings with it both international and regional media who collect and write positive stories about the destination and also investment and trade opportunities the country has on offer to the world.

The Ministry plans to host 12 international travel writers and documentary producers who will be in the country to collect Malawi Tourism content for their respective media houses that will be utilized to generate Malawi tourism visibility targeted towards consumers in the source markets.

Mbvundula said: “Those that visit the country also become automatic tourism ambassadors especially when they are satisfied and have enjoyed their stay.”

“They are also likely to recommend the destination to others when they go back home and are also likely to come back on holiday with their families.”

“Holding of a tourism fair creates huge business opportunities for the local population in the areas of Events Management, Stand Construction, Furniture, Flower and Equipment Hire, Transportation, Printing, Security and a host of their opportunities.”

Mbvundula stressed that the exposition is not only targeting exhibitors from the core tourism sector but also related service providers in various sectors.

This year the Ministry is reviewing the exhibition fees to ensure that a lot of players are given a chance to participate in the expo.

He said: “Therefore, in addition to accommodation units, tour operators, travel agents, airlines, car hire companies, tourism training institutions, we also target institutions that offer direct or indirect support to the tourism and hospitality sector to exhibit.

“It is not in our best interest to bar would be participants due to high exhibition fees. The fees are being reviewed to reflect the economic reality on the ground while ensuring that local exhibitors are not left behind.”

The 2023 Takulandilani expo will be proceeded by a number of activities including a public lecture themed ‘The value of tourism business; building national consciousness’ to take place on March 8, 2023.

Blantyre Hotels commences construction of new hotel in Lilongwe
September 30, 2023 / Wahard Betha

Hospitality Group Blantyre Hotels Plc has announced that construction works for its Lilongwe Hotel are commencing this month at the Lilongwe Golf Club following finalization of an agreement by its special purpose vehicle Oasis Hospitality Limited and the main contractor for the project.

In a summary of interim consolidated and separate financial statements for the six months ended June 30, 2022, Blantyre Hotels Plc explains that the project is part of its growth strategy through expansion of its portfolio by having another hotel operation to its business in Lilongwe.

The statement says the construction site was chosen to target both international and local business travelers and tourists.

It says: “This growth strategy is in line with the vision of the country where tourism is listed as one of the priority areas in the national development agenda, Malawi 2063.”

“The City of Lilongwe was chosen because of its central location and linkages to various parts of the country for international visitors.”

“The upgrading of road infrastructure currently in progress in Lilongwe will enhance the business of the hotel.”

The hotel will be operated under a long term management agreement with a leading widely known luxury hotel management company Marriott International under the brand name Protea Hotel by Marriott, and the design brief is being developed in line with Marriott International standards.

In Malawi, the month of September was designated National Tourism Month to create awareness on tourism and its benefits to the local economy.

Commenting in a Press Statement on World Tourism Day which falls on September 27, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Michael Usi says this year’s commemoration is being celebrated under the theme ‘Rethinking Tourism’ with focus on the recovery of the sector from the pandemic of covid-19.

Usi also says the theme presents a paradigm shift in tourism to ensure that the benefits of tourism are realized and enjoyed widely and fairly with a focus on the rural based tourism resources to create a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient sector.

He says: “In accordance with this theme and in line with the Domestic Tourism Marketing Strategy, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage fellow Malawians to utilize tourism facilities and attractions within our national boundaries.”

“You will be interested to note that as Malawians we have the capability to travel and spend within the country following the Malawi Domestic Tourism Survey Report by National Statistical Office in 2021.”

“This report indicated that Malawians on average account for nearly 94% of all outbound expenditures resulting from travelling from Malawi to other countries as compared to 6% for residents yet residents utilize our attractions more than we do.”

According to the report, 42% of Malawians travel to visit friends and relatives and only 1.9% travel for recreation.

Usi says now it is the time the country turned tables so that more people travelling to visit family and friends can also visit nearby attractions in their locations.

Tourism attraction centres help to create and sustain jobs and other related opportunities including improving livelihoods of local communities as there is support and maintenance of local services.

The sector is also a catalyst for attracting foreign exchange hence increasing domestic spending.  

Sunbird boasts of 184% profit growth
September 22, 2023 / Bester Kayaye

Malawi’s leading hospitality group Sunbird Tourism plc. says it has registered a growth of 184% in profit in the first half of 2022 fiscal year, a positive signal attributed to an increased in tourism and travel activities in the country.

In the profit and loss statement co-signed by the Group’s Board Chairman Vilipo Munthali and Director Moureen Mbeye, sunbird boasts to have posted Mk400.2 million in profit after tax favourably to the loss of K475.8 million attained in the same period last year.

It has also recorded a 58% increase in total revenue in the first half as at June 2022 total revenue amounted to K10.0 billion which is higher than prior year’s first half revenue of K6.4 billion.

Sunbird hails the corporate segment as the highest contributor with 82% of the rooms sold and it continues to be the anchor segment for the business.

“The segment is expected to remain the key driver for the business in the second half of the year. Efforts to grow other segments with focus on domestic leisure are in place, despite the challenges associated with the cost of living due to the prevailing economic environment that has direct impact on the price sensitive segment,” it says.

The company also says the increase in business levels has had a positive impact on the profitability despite the sharp increase in operating costs.

It says: “Sunbird half year performance indicates that the tourism industry is positively recovering from the heavy impact of pandemic and confidence in hospitality and travel has returned both at national and international level. However, the lakeshore ban for government meetings and conferences in the resorts has negatively affected the growth and performance of the industry.”

“Despite the recovery disruption, the positive trajectory due to increase in tourism and travel activities is expected to continue to the year-end, and key is the increasing of routes by Malawian Airlines and anticipated resumption of other airlines which will help with opening up Malawi further for international arrivals.”

Despite acknowledging that the recovery of tourism has gathered pace in many parts of the world, the company also points out weathering challenges constraining business operations including the Covid-19 pandemic as well as Russia-Ukraine war which has disrupted global supply chain leading to price increase of vital commodities.

Meanwhile, the company is still optimistic to record a significant profit in the second half of the year as it is implementing a number of key product improvement plans across the country including unveiling of a new Lake View Restaurant at Sunbird Livingstonia in May 2022, and phase one of soft refurbishment of Sunbird Ku Chawe and Mzuzu is underway.

“The Board is focused on building a resilient brand by improving service delivery and guest experience through implementation of the 5-year strategic plan to ensure that the company maintains its market leadership in the hospitality industry.”

Hospitality group advances plans to construct hotel in Lilongwe
July 05, 2022 / Jane Gondwe

Hospitality group Blantyre Hotels plc says it is progressing with preparations to construct a hotel in Lilongwe as part of its expansion plans.

In a summary of audited consolidated and separate financial statements for the fifteen months ended 31st December 2021 signed by Board Chairperson Emily Makuta, the group says it has finalized a subscription agreement and capital raise in respect of a majority portion of the estimated project cost.

Makuta states: “During the year, the project was granted planning permission approval by the Lilongwe City Council to develop the property.”

 “The Malawi Environmental Protection Authority also granted the approval to proceed with the project in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Authority Act (no 19 of 2017).”

“The project developer is now finalizing the main contractor agreement and planning for site mobilization in fourth quarter of 2022 based on the revised development agreement.”

 The group said it is committed to the implementation of the project, despite challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent devaluation of the local currency.

“The Group is finalizing the planning for its capital raise for the purpose of funding furniture and equipment for the new hotel,” says Makuta.

She also says the first four months of 2022 have started off positively as the group has performed better than projections for both revenues and expenses.

“We will continue to build on this strong momentum,” she says.

Makuta also says the macroeconomic outlook for the next twelve months looks promising as domestic and international travel gradually resumes and with the Government relaxing Covid-19 protocols therefore 2022 will be a year of recovery for the group.

“Our strategy is to drive operational excellence while personalizing the experience for our guests through the Marriot Bonvoy rewards loyalty program which will grow our business and drive profitability. We will continue to deliver excellent food and beverages and also improve efficiency,” she says.

Group revenue for the 15 months amounted to K1.97 billion which was 6% lower than the revenue realized in the 12 months ended 30 September 2020. Hotel occupancy averaged 23% in the period compared to 20% in the previous period. The decrease in revenues was due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Uncovering health and tourism potential of Mudi catchment area
December 16, 2021 / Bester Kayaye

Environmental enthusiasts are planning to unleash the recreational potential of the Mudi river and its catchment area.

Inspired to restore the ecosystems across Blantyre city, environmentalists under the Mudi River Clean-up 2021 project have launched the 2021/22 tree planting season with combined zeal to plant ten thousand trees along the Mudi riverline.

Manota Mphande of Art Malawi (ARTMAL) and his partner Chris Walker of PaNthunzi Eco Solutions say they are committed to realise their joint vision to give Mudi river and its catchment area an environmental face lift that will offer city residents and visitors recreation activities.

The Mudi river and its tributaries are the source of water for the Mudi dam, which supplies treated water for domestic and industrial use in the city. Its catchment area covers approximately 890 hectares (8.9 sq kilometres) land from the spillway of the dam to the now-degraded Ndirande Mountain Forest Reserve, all the way to Makhetha, Maoni Park, up to the Blantyre/Zomba road.

However, poor cultivation practices along the river buffer zone and high deforestation rates have contributed to soil erosion leading to land and water quality degradation.

Studies further indicate that the sharp increase in urbanization combined with the high levels of erosion relate to the deterioration of the water quality along the Mudi River.

Sewage from blocked sewer lines, solid waste dumped along the banks, agricultural activities and domestic water uses such as washing and bathing along the river all contribute to the degradation of both the environment and water quality.

Chris Walker told Mining and Trade Review that the project identified the tree planting drive as a key component in revitalizing the Mudi river catchment area’s lost glory and restoring the ‘green’ beauty of the city of Blantyre as a business and tourist entry point into the country.

The Mudi catchment area was once famed for recreational activities such as camping, picnicking, fishing, boating, canoeing, sailing and swimming.

“Tree planting exercise will help restore the vegetative cover, ensure clean air and fresh and unpolluted water,” he said explaining that the project will embark on a mindset change campaign to orient people on better ways to interact with the environment such as in the management of solid and liquid waste, which mostly end in burning the vegetative cover or polluting the river.

He emphasized how critical the Mudi River ecosystem is to the preservation of the health and energy of the city’s residents as much as it is in preserving the beauty and freshness of tourist attraction spots such as Majete Wildlife Reserve and Elephant Marsh, whose lifeline are in part conserved by the Shire River, where Mudi river flows into.

According to Walker, river-borne waste from Blantyre City also contributes to oceanic pollution since the Shire River empties into the great Zambezi River which drains into the Indian ocean.

“it is, therefore, important to treat Mudi River against solid waste and liquid pollution as Blantyre is a key entry point for international and domestic business tourism,” he said

The Mudi River Clean-up project receives financial support from GIZ under the More Income and Employment in Rural Areas (MIERA), and has managed to provide temporary employment to over 120 personnel ranging from river cleaners, supervisors, wood carvers, stone sculptors, metal artists and many more.

So far, 35 tonnes of solid waste have been removed from a stretch of approximately 2.5km on the confluence with Nansolo River along the riverline from the Clock Tower Roundabout through Blantyre Market and Blantyre Sports Club.

Councilor for Blantyre City Central Ward, Chidika Nyumba, commended the project for the positive strides in keeping Blantyre clean and green.

He said the initiative compliments efforts by the City Council, which will be planting about 50,000 trees in this year’s tree planting season.

Business Computer Services (BCS) Managing Director, James Chimwaza, co-sponsor of the tree planting initiative called for collaborative efforts in shaping outlook of city to attract more trade and investment into the commercial city.

Malawi to preserve mountain ecosystems for sustainable tourism
November 30, 2021 / Bester Kayaye

In an effort to enhance visibility of Malawi’s mountains on the global tourism network, government says it is set to commemorate this year’s International Mountain Day (IMD) on December 11, 2021 on Zomba plateau, one of the country’s source of inspiration.

Zomba plateau is a unique wilderness standing one foot in the city of Zomba (Malawi’s former capital city) and the other in the remote part of Zomba district. It attracts varying levels of visitors because of its fresh, clean air, diverse landscape and rich biodiversity.

Macpherson Nthara, the Chief Land Resource and Conservation Officer in the Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources, says the commemoration to be cerebrated under the theme: “Sustainable Mountain Tourism – A Call for Action Towards the 2030 Agenda for Mountains” is aimed at promoting and supporting long-lasting initiatives for sustainable mountain conservation and development in Malawi.

The event, which is being coordinated by the World Mountain Partnership, will be led by a taskforce of local stakeholders drawn from the ministries of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources, Tourism, Culture and Wildlife.

“Mountains are an integral part of the tourism sector in Malawi considering that a number of tourist attraction sites in Malawi are located on mountains,” says Nthara who explained the country’s intention to promote the economic sustainability of mountains and the tourism industry as a whole.

“Mountains host a wide range of ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, rivers and wetlands. These contain a wide range of biodiversity which is a vital source of food, medicine and for tourism,” he observes but is also quick to note that despite their importance, mountains have received little attention in national discussions focusing on the environmental and developmental issues.

The Zomba massif is touted for its cedar, pine and cypress plantations as well as the wild vegetation, fresh water streams, tumbling waterfalls and still lake-like dams.

Visitors enjoy scenic viewpoints, hiking, trekking and walking where they may have the chance to encounter or catch a sight of wildlife including leopards, giant butterflies, baboons as well as have specular time enjoying the unique birdlife and trout fishing

Nthara stresses the need for the country to recognize the ecosystems services provided by mountains and intensify efforts aimed at conserving them whilst implementing a localized agenda of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to which Malawi is part of.

As part of increasing awareness on the importance of mountains for the health of the planet and well-being of billions of people, activities lined up for the day include hiking trips, tree planting exercises, press briefings and a panel discussion on “Sustainable Mountain Tourism’’ where experts in tourism and environmental sectors will talk on the need to safeguard mountain ecosystems and will highlight the tourism potential in mountains.

Sunbird to construct eco lodge at Majete Wildlife Reserve
September 28, 2021 / Wahard Betha

Hotel group Sunbird Tourism Plc has unveiled its plans to construct 15 room eco lodge at Majete Wildlife Reserve in Chikwawa.

The group says in its interim financial statement for the half year period ended June 30, 2021 that the project which is now at design stage, is scheduled to be completed next year.

In the statement co-signed by Chairman George Patridge and Director Vilipo Munthali, Sunbird explains that the project will help the Company revive its hospitality business which has greatly been affected by coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Say Petridge and Munthali: “Looking ahead to the rest of the year, the Covid-19 pandemic is still a major risk in the industry and continues to adversely affect the performance of hospitality business.”

“However, the board’s focus remains to continue building a resilient brand by improving service delivery and guest experience.”

“This is being achieved through product and infrastructure improvements and intensifying sales and marketing activities to ensure that the company maintains its market leadership in the hospitality industry.”

The Group expresses optimism that hospitality business will improve following Covid-19 vaccination campaign underway which is expected to bring desired confidence in resuming normal business and leisure travel as some countries are beginning to open up.

Meanwhile, the Malawi Government has relaxed some of the Covid-19 restrictions, which the Group says will bring positive impact on the economy of the country specifically the tourism industry.

Apart from the construction of eco lodge at Majete, Sunbird is implementing a number of key products improvements across the country.

These include construction of a new iconic 42-bedroom Sunbird Water Front Beach Resort adjacent to Sunbird Livingstonia Beach which was fully completed and; Vincent’s platinum a fine dining restaurant at Sunbird Mount Soche, both scheduled to open in October, 2021.

With all these initiatives, complemented by an improvement in business environment, Sunbird Board forecasts returning of the company to profitability in the second half of the year.

Sunbird’s loss after tax was at MK475.8-million which compares favorably to the loss of MK1.3-billion realized in the same period last year, signaling a process of the business environment returning slowly to normality as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the industry is better than the first wave in the previous year.

Sunbird’s nine properties include Sunbird Capital in Lilongwe, Sunbird Mount Soche in Blantyre, Sunbird Lilongwe, Sunbird Mzuzu, Sunbird Mkopola in Mangochi, Sunbird Livingstonia Beach in Salima, Sunbird Chintheche in Nkhatabay, and Sunbird Ku Chawe in Zomba.