Salad Nthenda is the Vice Consul Tourism, Malawian Consulate-General in Johannesburg, South Africa. Nomad Africa Magazine’s Bruce Germaine had an exclusive interview with him at the recently concluded Meetings Africa 2015 held at the Sandton Convention center, Johannesburg in South Africa. He highlights the major tourist attractions and what makes Malawi a unique destination for tourist, challenges and strategies the Malawian government has deployed to improve on tourism in Malawi.
Nomad Africa: What are you aims and objectives at Meetings Africa 2015?
Salad:”We are here at meetings Africa 2015 to showcase our ability to host meetings and incentive travel. We have key products that we are actually highlighting at this particular event, for instance our showcase of the Bingo International Conference Centre – a convention facility that can seat up to a 1000. It is a new facility and I estimate to be in full operation by March 2016. Located in our capital in Lilongwe, it is one of the key products that we are highlighting at this event. In a nutshell we are here to showcase our ability to host events at meetings in spite of their magnitude. “
Nomad Africa: Can you tell us more about your key tourist attractions in Malawi?
Salad: “Malawi is called the warm heart of Africa so what is key for Malawi, in terms of its tourist offering, is the friendliness of the people – that is the No.1 aspect that we tell people– come to Malawi and meet the most friendliest people on the continent, also that is why we are called the warm heart of Africa.
Secondly, Malawi has got one of the most beautiful lakes in the world – Lake Malawi. It is huge, about 500 km long and about 80 km at its widest point. The attributes of that beautiful lake are enormous such as the cleanliness of the water; the diversity of nature life in and around the lake and it is one of the key tourist attractions of Malawi.
Thirdly, Malawi is not only about the lake. If you want to experience Africa in its unspoilt state, Malawi has got that aspect to offer you. If you are talking about wanting to experience the wilderness aspect of Africa, Malawi has got that as well. Wildlife, beautiful mountains, beautiful landscapes, Malawi has it all. Diversity – that’s what Malawi offers, and all within short distances. “
Nomad Africa: Looking at tourism in Malawi, what are the challenges in your region and what is the Malawian government and Tourism board doing to improve on tourism?
Salad: “Malawi is a blessed country because it is sitting on untapped resources, and beautifully endowed with natural resources. The unfortunate thing is that we do not have the capacity to let the world know about the potential that Malawi has in terms of its tourism offering. That particular challenge is all about resources because for you to go out there and talk about what you have to offer, you need a push in terms of financial resources. That’s what Malawi lacks at the moment.
Nevertheless, fortunately for Malawi the government has actually prioritized the tourism sector as one of the major sectors that can contribute effectively to the economy of Malawi. It is one of the sectors that will be well funded in order for us to achieve the aims and objectives of reaching out to the whole world and letting it know what tourism offerings Malawi has.”
Nomad Africa: Looking at 2014, what are your tourism figures?
Salad: “2014 was not a bad year in terms of arrivals, we recorded just over 780 000 visitors into Malawi. Currently we are working on strategies targeting specific markets such as, for instance, the South African and European markets to make sure that over the next 3 years we are able to attract a million tourists per year. “
“Malawi is a blessed country because it is sitting on untapped resources, and beautifully endowed with natural resources. The unfortunate thing is that we do not have the capacity to let the world know about the potential that Malawi has in terms of its tourism offering.“
Nomad Africa: From what parts of the world are your figures coming from?
Salad: ”Our biggest source market is the South African market, and of course we do get quite a lot of numbers from our neighbouring countries such as Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania since we share borders with those countries. When I talk about tourism, I talk about the financial aspect that comes with it, the spending power of the tourist. South Africa is our main source market, seconded by the UK, and then the USA so most of the numbers come from South Africa, seconded by Europe, and the USA.”
Nomad Africa: There are lots of perceptions of Africa and countries across Africa regarding the Ebola virus outbreak; can you shed light on that for us?
Salad: “It is sad to hear stories about Ebola, but I will give you an example. Malawi has not recorded a single case of Ebola. In fact, comparatively, the US has seen more Ebola patients compared to Malawi or South Africa combined so basically Malawi is one of the countries that has not been accessed by that particular disease but I should also highlight here that one of the key points for Malawi is the safety aspect. When tourists come to Malawi, they are assured of their safety. I am not saying there is no crime in Malawi but the crime rates are very low. You can do your research on the internet but I think you should be able to figure it for yourself.
Nomad Africa: In conclusion, what is your invite to potential tourists?
Salad: “Come to Malawi for our fine weather, it is so beautiful, come to the warm heart of Africa and our friendly people, our great Lake Malawi. I am sending out the message to the tourists to come to Malawi because we can assure you of your safety, and you can experience Africa in its unspoilt state.”
This article was written by BRUCE GERMAINE