By Leonard Masauli
Likoma, January 11, Mana: Tourism investors in Likoma District have bemoaned high cost of Visa fees and delay by government in issuing operating licenses, saying the challenges have the potential to scare away foreign nationals willing to visit and invest in the tourism industry in the country.
The country charges $75 (about K57, 879) Visa fees on single foreign entry and is considered to be expensive to foreign visitors.
One of the shareholders of the newly constructed Chiponde Beach Resort at Likoma Island, Carla Lemmis recently said the challenges can contribute to loss of forex and revenue.
Lemmis then called on government to reduce the fees and speed up the process of issuing operating licenses to attract foreign visitors and investors in the tourism sector.
“Malawi charges $75 on a single entry for Visa and this is way too high, what if it is a family of four or five, it would be very expensive to meet such fees, I therefore wish if government can revise the fees.
“We are geared to offer employment to a number of youth at Likoma. We currently have 13 workers but we cannot offer them full time employment because we are not yet issued with an operating license which we applied for some time back,” said Lemmis.
She said, once licensed, the proprietors of the beach resort will support the elderly and award best performing learners among other community programs as part of their corporate social responsibility.
District Commissioner (DC) for Likoma, Eric Nema said Chiponde Beach Resort is a component in the tourism reform initiative that seeks support from both government and the local community.
When contacted, Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture spokesperson, Sarah Njanji, said according to the Department of Immigration, a single entry Visa fee is currently at $50 (K38, 386) down from $75 (about K57, 879).
On issuance of operating licensees, Njanji said an investor is required to submit a business plan, proof of land ownership and architectural drawings among other requirements upon completion of the development stage
She said the ministry must also inspect the infrastructure to check for stipulated minimum standards.
“If the unit meets the minimum standards for licensing, then a tourism license is issued by the Tourism and Hotels Board. Due to the nature of the process itself and occasional logistical challenges, licenses can be delayed,” said Njanji.
She said in the case of Likoma, the Department of Tourism through the Regional Tourism Office for the north, has scheduled to carry out inspections within the month of January.
Malawi was on December 8, 2020 recognised as one of the top five tourist destinations for the year 2021.
According to the Forbes list of five little-known nations that deserve to become tourism hotspots in 2021, Malawi made the cut because of its natural beauty and the gigantic Lake Malawi.