By Naomi Biwi
Lilongwe, 13 September 2018: This year Malawi joined other 23 countries to participate at the 2018 Sanganai/ Hlanganani World Travel Expo which was held from 6th to 8th September, 2018 at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Grounds in Bulawayo.
Malawi’s participation was in line with the implementation of the 2017-2022 strategic destination marketing framework which is a blueprint of key marketing initiatives that Malawi must undertake to enhance its visibility as a destination.
Commenting on Malawi’s participation at this year’s Expo, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Henry Mussa, said “Zimbabwe is a strategic market for Malawi regionally and the integration of these two great nations goes back to the federation days.”
Our presence was twofold, firstly we wanted to enhance our integration with our counterparts and secondly we showcased Malawi’s tourism products and services to the 150 buyers that were at this show so that they can start packaging Malawi’
While in Bulawayo the Minister participated at a Ministerial Round Table Discussion whose theme was “Tourism and the Digital Transformation in Africa” which was in line with the UNWTO 2018 World Tourism Day theme.
During the round table discussion, which was attended by colleague Ministers from South Africa and the hosts Zimbabwe, among other dignitaries, the Minister reiterated the importance of digital platforms for boosting of the tourism industry.
‘Digital transformation has given all players in the tourism sector especially here in Africa, an opportunity to harness this powerful and cost-effective tool to create more job, employment and generate revenue for economic development’ Mussa said.
The Minister added that the integration of internet into mobile phones has greatly increased the level of engagement between tourism operators and local communities. Digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp have become convenient platforms for discussion and sharing tourism ideas. The Minister also gave examples of how Malawi has embraced digital technological transformation by building Telecentres throughout the country to make internet accessible to rural communities. Further, Malawi is implementing Chinese Government funded National Fibre Backbone project which is laying fibre optic cables nationwide which will improve internet speed and connectivity in the country.
The Minister also called upon his fellow Ministers to work together towards integrating the region’s tourist products as a way of enhancing tourists experience. He observed that African countries need to make it easier for international tourists to travel from one country to another by harmonising their visa regime. He informed the audience that Malawi was in the process of reviewing its visa fees to be in line with those in the region.
He also cautioned that whilst digital technology was a powerful tool for tourism marketing and development, it can easily destroy a tourist destination at the blink of an eye is abused.
During the fair the 2018 Sanganai Expo, Malawi showcased its key product lines namely; fresh water Lake Malawi and its biodiversity, Nature, growing Wildlife, Culture attractions and the growing Meetings, incentive travel, Conferences and Exhibition (MICE) segment.
Some of the activities undertaken on the sidelines of the Expo included a bilateral meeting with Zimbabwe and the discussion centered on the development of an action plan for the operationalization of the Joint Destination Marketing Committee programmes which include joint agent and tour operator workshops, exchange programmes for officials and best practices benchmarking exercises among others.