By Macdonald Ziba:Mana
The Department of Tourism in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism is finalizing a draft on Domestic Tourism Marketing Strategy (DTMS) which is aimed at putting in place mechanisms to grow the number of locals that visit and utilise tourism facilities in the country.
Once finalised and in operation, the new marketing strategy will also encourage collaboration among various players in the industry.
Drafting of the DTMS follows the ministry’s observation of increasing local patronage of national parks, national monuments, various music and cultural events and other tourist attraction facilities.
Director of Tourism, Isaac Dalton Katopola has revealed to Malawi News Agency (MANA) the strategy intends to sustain the growing local travel for sustainable local tourism.
“The strategy will not only increase the number of local tourists, but also enhance collaboration among various players in the industry in the promotion of domestic tourism,” he said.
According to Katopola, key guidelines the ministry is facilitating in promoting domestic tourism include: Undertaking promotional campaigns on the benefits of travel to current and potential tourist sites; conducting training of tourism product owners and lobbying for the formation and capacitating of tourism promotion units in local councils.
“We are also strengthening and improving more innovation in offering authentic and affordable experiences and packages for locals and lobbying for introduction of tourism in the curricula at primary and tertiary levels,” he added.
Katopola further stated that in the 2018/2019 tourism budget, the department planned to conduct training workshops for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) on how to use social media to promote their facilities. It also contains plans for awareness workshops for tourism enterprises and promotional campaigns.
He further explained that the private sector has supported programmes the department undertakes to promote domestic tourism.
“The hospitality sector offers loyalty incentive schemes and special rates during the off-peak season.
“The private sector also offers special packages during festive season and during hosting of major arts and cultural events; inclusion of local cuisine on their menus and usage of local materials in the branding of tourism facilities,” he explained.
Speaking during an interview, a Lilongwe based ardent local tourist, Leonard Phiri said Malawi was not doing well in promoting domestic tourism regardless of efforts made in the same direction.
“The charges in most tourism facilities are prohibitive and the roads are poor, hence favouring rich international tourists,” he said.
Phiri also asked government to tour the tourism places and appreciate if what is being offered is friendly for local tourists.
“The reality is that tourism services and products are very expensive for middle class Malawians who would wish to be part of promoting domestic tourism. For instance, you find a room at MK80, 000 per night in most lodges in Salima.
“The government should also make sure it allocates a reasonable budget for domestic tourism management,” he added.
According to the Tourism Director, statistics indicate that in 2016, domestic tourism accounted for over 70 per cent of all tourism activities in the country and over 75 per cent of room occupancy in all tourist accommodation units and visits to the country’s national parks and wildlife reserves were by local residents.
Under the Promotion of Investment and Competitiveness in the Tourism Sector (PICTS) Project funded by African Development Bank (AfDB), the ministry has planned to undertake a comprehensive domestic tourism survey within the next two years.
It is also estimated that the Domestic Tourism Marketing Strategy is expected to contribute about four to 15 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2020.