Government says engineers have embarked on technical assessment for the development of an airport in Mangochi which will enable the country attract tourists flying directly to the lake shore district.

Ministry of Transport and Public Infrastructure Principal Secretary Collins Kumangirana said this on Friday during the national dialogue of the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP).

He said transport and tourism are some of the ERP’s priority areas that include energy, mining, agriculture and Information Communication Technology (ICT).

“Government will continue to aim at improving air transport efficiency to encourage trade, tourism and investment by improving the promotion and provision of safe, efficient, reliable aviation infrastructure and services.

“Through this trend, we are assessing the district of Mangochi to have an airport there which government knows will be very crucial to allow tourist fly directly to the lake shore district,” Kumangirana said.

However, FDH Financial Holdings Group Chief Executive Officer Thom Mpinganjira said the new developments must also not leave behind proper upgrading of the Chileka Airport which he said requires electronic clearance systems for immigration and passport controls.

“If we are indeed focussed on getting serious investors, we must start right at the point of entry because the services from check-in to baggage access is awful and such delays always lead to missing of connecting flights wherever one is heading to,” said Mpinganjira.

Taking his turn, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture Daniel Liwimbi said the tourism sector has potential to generate revenue, employment, improve infrastructure, and promote Small and Medium Enterprises as well as conserve wildlife and culture.

“The sector has direct linkages with other sectors of the economy. However, the industry faces a number of challenges which include poor supporting infrastructure, poor service delivery, uncoordinated and insufficient marketing of tourism products and inadequate purpose-built infrastructure,” said Liwimbi.

He said to promote the industry, government will restock game reserves and national parks and protecting animals, intensify marketing of the country as a preferred tourist destination and aggressively put measures to increase flights to Malawi, including direct flights from Europe.

“The reason for us to promote direct flights from and to other continents is to safeguard the sector’s potential as it is currently cumbersome for one to fly here since it requires changing of flights more than once,” said Liwimbi.

He said through the ERP, the tourism ministry is implementing a programme to train staff, supervisors, and managers in the tourism sector while enhancing marketing of Malawi’s tourism products.

According to the Malawi Annual Economic Report for 2011, the country recorded 776,000 international visitors in 2010 and that 1994 to 2010, Malawi tourism grew at an average annual rate of 12 percent, reflecting a booming tourism industry despite recording a substantial slowdown in 2008 and 2009.

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