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Sunbird cries foul over Covi-19 woes
September 23, 2020 / Wahard Betha

Malawi Stock Exchange listed Sunbird Tourism plc says restrictions on travel and holding of meetings imposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has greatly impacted on its business and the entire hospitality industry in the first half of the year 2020.

Sunbird said this in condensed interim financial statements for the half year period ended June 30, 2020 which was signed by its  Chairman Phillip Madinga and Director Anderson Kulugomba.

“The hospitality industry is one of the worst hit industry from the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.”

“The pandemic has had significant adverse impact on the business, affecting all its segments due to worldwide health guidelines and restrictions which resulted in the reduction of travel, both local and international, and the holding of meetings,” reads the statement.

It says the pandemic has influenced the company’s total revenue to decline from a total of MK9.038 billion of last year to MK6.120 billion this year representing 32%.  

The report says in the total revenue, catering division revenue was amounted to MK454 million representing 39%, lower than the revenue achieved for the same period of MK739 million.

It also says the corporate segment, at 68% of total room nights sold, continued to be the anchor segment followed by conference segment at 16%.

The report reads: “These segments are expected to be the key drivers for the business in the short to medium term. The company is implementing various initiatives to grow other segments such as leisure in order to diversify revenue sources.”

It also laments that pre-election political tensions created bottle necks in the company’s revenue sources following reduction in the activities by customers due to cautions of travelling during the first half of the year.

Meanwhile, the company’s operating costs on administration and other expenses totaled MK5.8 billion, 3.4% higher than same period last year, which is favorable compared with inflation trends.

Finance costs totaled MK289 million which was 181% above last year’s MK103 million, driven by capitalization of completed projects from prior year.

The company also registered loss after tax of MK1.336 billion compared unfavorably to the profit of MK1.197 achieved in the same period in the year 2019.

Subbird projects continued global recession due to the pandemic negatively affecting the hospitality industry.

However, the firm is optimistic for a gradual improvement to the sector following easing of lockdowns in various countries and reopening of borders and airports.

Sunbird says the recovery process will be complemented by the new government’s transformation agenda premised on the three key themes of inclusive and sustainable growth, macroeconomic stability and sound financial management.

Reads the statement: “There are a number of key product improvement plans that have been implemented across the company and some that are currently underway.”

“Construction of a new 42-bedroom beach resort at Sunbird Livingstonia Beach is at an advanced stage and expected to be opened later in the year, while construction of additional 15 rooms at Sunbird Nkopola Lodge is in the final stages and it is expected to be completed in the third quarter of the year,” says the company. It says the Board’s focus remains to continue building a resilient brand by improving service delivery and guest experience through product and infrastructure improvements and intensifying sales and marketing activities to ensure that the group maintains its market leadership in the hospitality industry.

Tourism Ministry laments Covid-19 woes
September 15, 2020 / Noel Mkwaila

The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture says Malawi has lost billions of kwacha in revenue that could have been realized in the sector due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Public Relations Officer for the Ministry Sarah Leah Njanji tells Mining and Trade Review that games and parks and hoteling subsectors are the worst hit since they mainly depend on international travelers for business.

Njanji explains that over 90% of tourism related operations have experienced a reduction in revenue of between 85 and 100% since February 2020.

“Generally, progress has been slow this year due to Covid-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions and closing of borders in our key source markets led to temporary closure of some local businesses, loss of jobs and also loss of business due to cancellation of bookings,” says Njanji.

She also says cancellation of annual Takulandirani Malawi International Tourism Expo and other mega events has negatively impacted a lot on financial earnings from the sector.

Meanwhile, the Ministry is working on modalities to revive the tourism and hospitality industry which include promotion of domestic tourism.

She says, among other things, the Ministry is using local digital platforms as a way of attracting local tourists.

“The focus now is on recovery but doing so in a responsible manner. This means that all operations in the industry must comply with the necessary health protocols,” she says.

She also says the department is preparing to develop a risk crisis management strategy.

APM outlines plans to cushion tourism sector
June 11, 2020 / Wahard Betha

The Malawi Government has announced plans to cushion the country’s tourism sector which has greatly been hit by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Speaking during the opening of the 2020/2021 budget meeting of parliament in Lilongwe, State President Arthur Peter Mutharika said the plans include suspension of 1% Tourism Levy on tourism goods and services consumed;general deferment of business loan repayments; and encouraging voluntary pay cuts in the sector to sustain existing jobs.

Mutharika also said his government is developing a bailout fund to support the tourism sector.

He said in order to build resilience in post-COVID-19 period, Government is developing a National Tourism Crisis Management Strategy and Plan for effective coordination of crisis management in the sector.

He said: “Government will soon undertake a comprehensive review of the Tourism and Hotels Act to among others, establish a semi-autonomous Tourism Authority.”

“Government will also develop a Tourism Master Plan and carry out a feasibility study for the development of Nankumba peninsular as a tourism hub.”

Mutharika stressed that tourism remains a priority sector and a vehicle for economic growth and wealth creation though the emergency of the pandemic has adversely affected the sector’s contribution towards Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

He said: “The anticipated financial and job losses in the sector are huge and likely to worsen should the pandemic persist.”

“However, in order to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, Government is implementing measures to ensure that the sector is back on track and our economy is breathing normally.”

On trade and industry development, Mutharika promised continued reforms in the sector to facilitate an enabling environment for investments.

He pointed out that his government has already successfully implemented other reforms in the sector including the introduction of Electronic Permit (E-permit) System that has reduced the time it takes to obtain various permits such as Business Residence Permit and Temporary Employment Permit from six months to five days.

He said the Malawi Government also reviewed the Investment and Export Promotion Act which aims at strengthening Malawi Investment and Trade Centre in order to improve its capacity on investment and trade promotion.

Mutharika pledged that in the next Financial Year, Government will continue to create a conducive environment for trade and industry by reviewing related national policies including Business Licensing Policy and Anti-Counterfeit Policy.

He also said under his leadership, the Malawi Government will continue the implementation of the National Export Strategy which focuses on strengthening the private sector, investment promotion, trade facilitation and economic empowerment.

In 2019, Government projected an economic growth rate of 5.5% in the year 2020 but this seems a tall order due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected many growth sectors of the economy forcing the government to revise the economy growth projection for 2020 to1.9%.

Government has also revised downwards the real GDP growth projection for 2021 from an anticipated 5.8% to 4.5%.

Malawi Govt. seeks investor to manage Lifupa Lodge.
March 25, 2020 / Edith Chirwa

The Malawi Government is scouting for investors to manage Lifupa Ecotourism Lodge in Kasungu National Park in a long term concession agreement.

Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife is, currently, requesting for expressions of interest from investors to take over management of the lodge complemented by a campsite, which accommodates 35 visitors and three existing tents.

“What adds to the beauty of the Lodge is the presence of Lifupa Damfacing the chalets and bar; reception and its information room,” says the Department in a Press Statement.

It states that among the recent additions at the site is a swimming pool within its vicinity, and the lodge has also staff houses including the Lodge Manager’s house.

The lodge is currently running at around 15 to 25% occupancy rate, which is on the lower side.

The Department says the objectives of the concession include to produce a tourism product within the framework of sustainable and responsible tourism for the optimum benefit of the stakeholders; rehabilitate the lodge facilities to the required standards so that the lodge remains attractive for ecotourism;improve revenue collection for the park; and help achieve conservation of the natural resources in and around the site and activity areas.

The concessionaire is expected to assess extent of damage on Lifupa lodge facilities, compile a report on the damage and recommend appropriate interventions, and cost the proposed interventions and finance and rehabilitate the facilities.

The Department says the preferred concessionaire should have at least three years’ experience in managing and operating an ecotourism lodge or related ecotourism ventures in protected areas, two years’ experience in ecotourism business marketing, well qualified staff, and experience in wildlife conservation and ecotourism development.

Tourism Board grades Malawi’s hotels
February 27, 2020 / Madalitso Mhango

The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism has released the official results of the national hotel star grading exercise which the Tourism and Hotels Board conducted in the 2019/2020 financial year.

The Tourism and Hotels Board had its 125th meeting that was held on December, 13 2019 where it approved the star rating of hotels and lodges in accordance with its assessment.

Chairperson of the Tourism and Hotels Board Connie Msiska says in a Press Statement that in the hotels category, the Board awarded 5-Star status to Amaryllis Hotel in Blantyre and 3-Star to Sunbird Lilongwe Hotel.

On lodges, Msiska says the Board awarded 3-Star status to Sunbird Nkopola, Game Haven, Kayak Africa and Leslie lodges. Mikoma lodges and conferences was awarded 1-Star status.

“The hotel star grading exercise indicates to consumers the property’s commitment to quality service and standards as indicated by the stars. The hotel grading system leads to an overall improvement in services levels and physical facilities of a property,” says Msiska.

The Board started conducting the hotel grading system in 2010.

Lack of top class hotels and other tourism facilities is one of the problems which the local tourism industry is facing.

Malawi is famously dubbed the Warm Heart of Africa, and has considerable potential for tourism as it boosts of several tourist attraction sites including its most exquisite freshwater Lake Malawi, several national parks, game reserves, and the scenic Mulanje Mountain.

The tourism industry in Malawi has significantly grown since the mid-1970s, and government is attempting to expand it further by implementing a number of projects designed to attract more international tourists.

Currently, the sector’s contribution to gross domestic product stands at around 7.7%, and government believes the sector can register significant growth with more investments in tourism support infrastructure, improved quality of tourism products and services as well as improved conservation and management of cultural heritage resources.

The Malawi Government recognises tourism as a priority sector that can be used as a vehicle for economic growth and poverty alleviation as outlined in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) III.

Lilongwe based travel agency hosts USA singer
October 04, 2020 / Gloria Mbwana

Lilongwe based travel agency African Global Travel Tours (AGTT) says it will be coming up with more innovations to promote tourism in Malawi.

AGTT CEO Francis Muleso said this when AGTT hosted a US-based vocal voice singing group, The Temptations, at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe.

“The country has benefited from this show because as we are talking now, we have people from Zimbabwe, Zambia and other neighboring countries who have come here for the show, and have brought some foreign exchange into Malawi,” said Muleso.

He said his company also organized the show as one way of appreciating the support that it receives from its customers in Malawi and the region.

“We brought The Temptations because we knew that they have a large following in the region so they will bring here fun loving people from Zimbabwe and other Africa countries in so doing bringing forex into Malawi,” Muleso said.

He said in bringing the singers to Malawi, his company has helped to bring Malawi on the tourism map as some of The Temptations membersinformed him that they liked Malawi and are planning to come back with families and friends.

Muleso said his company will continue hosting such events in Malawi as it envisions Malawi with its natural beauty becoming a centre of tourism in the region.

“There is a very big announcement that we will make verysoon possibly in the next four weeks. Another bigger thing is coming, and we shall be doing this more often to promote Malawi,” he said.

AGTT started operating inMalawi in 2016 and, Muleso said, ever since that time, the Company has enjoyed enormous support from its customers.

The Temptations are an American vocal group which released a series of successful singles and albums with Motown Records during the early 1960’s and 1970’s.

 AGTT is a Malawian company but its headquarters is based in South Africa.

Government pursues tourism masterplan
June 27, 2019 / Wahard Betha

Government says it is implementing a master plan to develop the tourism sector, which involves putting up necessary infrastructure to create a conducive business climated for existing players in the industry and intensifying promotional activities to attract more tourists and investors.

Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Lloyd Muhara, said at the launching ceremony of this year’s three day Takulandirani Malawi Tourism Expo that the masterplan will be implemented over a period of 25 years and will guide planning, zoning and promotion of tourism investment in the country.

Muhara said as part of the plan, the government has constructed two access roads in the tourism district ofSalima connecting lakeshore resorts to the main road and acquired over 17 hectares of land along the lakeshore for development of public beaches which will act as a model for tourism development along the lake.

He said the Ministry has also upgraded the Kamuzu international Airport with assistance from the Japanese Government through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The chief secretary also said government is implementing the Promotion of Investment and Competitiveness in the Tourism Sector (PICTS) project with financial support from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to the tune of US$10-million.

Muhara said: “The project seeks to build and strengthen institutional capacity in tourism statistics development and implementation of Tourism Satellite Accounting system for Malawi.”

“This will improve collection of tourism statistics to provide a better case to Government for public funding of the sector.”

The project will also build capacity of 500 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the tourism sector through training and provision of loans to the SMEs.

It will as well enhance law enforcement in Kasungu and Lake Malawi National Parks to reduce wildlife poaching and strengthen the Malawi Tourism Council, which is the voice of the tourism private sector so that it serves its members more effectively.

He said the project will involve development of an Eco-tourism strategy to ensure sustainable utilization of Malawi’s unique nature-based attractions, support review of culture legal framework and instruments and develop tourism infrastructure at Chongoni World Heritage site which projects Stone Age rock art.

Muhara explained that with these interventions the project will not only boost Malawi’s capacity to attract foreign investment in the tourism sector but it will also enhance the country’s capacity to satisfy tourism needs.

Malawi’s travel and tourism sector contributes 7.7% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).