The level of locals’ patronage to Malawi’s acclaimed tourism sites remains ‘horribly’ low, a development blamed on prevalent perceptions that tourism is for foreign nationals.
But Director of Tourism, Isaac Katopola, said this was set to change following increased levels of public awareness about the ‘vast’ advantages of visiting local tourism sites.
Katopola said government has been carrying out public mobilization campaigns aimed at changing prevalent perceptions. He said the country was also working on price modalities to make sure Malawi remained a competitive tourism destination for many of the world’s citizens.
There are concerns over Malawi’s price competitiveness, with a majority of foreign tourists complaining over high accommodation and traveling prices.
Government maintains Malawi remains one of the cheapest destinations in Africa, with her wide variety of endemic natural diversity. Lake Malawi is Africa’s third largest lake and contains more aquatic bio-diversity than any other fresh lake in the world.
While fossil fish can not be found in the lake, archaeological evidence indicates the lake, also known as the Lake of Stars, has not always been without fossil fish. Just some 200 years ago, it was there in abundance- now forced out of existence by man’s pervasive activities.
“We are worried that locals continue to shun tourism site. The thinking is that only foreign nationals are best-suited for tourism. It is sad, but we are working on it,” said Katopola.
Malawi joined the rest of the world in commemorating ‘Tourism Week’ whose theme was ‘Cerebrating Diversity’. The week brought to light some of the country’s attractive places, which included the Kandewe Cultural Heritage Site. There, at Zuwulufu, a traditional suspension bridge built in 1904 stands strong in the air.
Something happened there some fifteen years ago. An unsuspecting Hippopotamus walked through the suspended bridge that needs faith in one’s legs to cross, as it is made up of mere bamboos, and- mid way through- fell through, down into the Zuwulufu River.
The Hippo plunged some fifteen metres down, breaking its two hind legs. School children, who cross the suspended bridge daily in their quest for a honey comb called education, could not cross the river as their link was torn asunder mid way through the river. They reported to their parents, and the parents called game rangers.
The rangers task was simple: shoot the Hippo that had burst through Goodwin Mkandawire’s idea of a bamboo suspended bridge).To the villagers, the Hippo was good news. The spirits of their (Khoka people, who lived in the area and can still be found) ancestors had brought them ‘Ndiwo’ (relish).
The Hippo died, relish for all villagers, but the suspended bridge was repaired.
Katopola said this, and many other tourism attractions, were good for both the foreign national and local citizen.
“Tourism, like music, is universal,” he said.