Chakwera used 2021 tourism data in his 2024 SONA; Tourism Ministry currently compiling data for 2022-2023

South Africa publishes reports every month

* We must aim at getting to level of monthly data gathering on tourism and migration like other countries—expert

* Malawi’s tourism reports are generated annually in collaboration with NSO and Immigration Department—Tourism Ministry

Analysis by Duncan Mlanjira

President Lazarus Chakwera used 2022 tourism data in his 2024 State of the Nation Address (SONA) that was presented in Parliament yesterday, in which he indicated that international arrivals have increased by about 64% from 2021, reaching approximately 708,000 in 2022.


This has been observed by an expert, who confided with Maravi Express that Malawi must aim at getting to the level of monthly data gathering on tourism and migration like other countries — as opposed to Ministry of Tourism’s, which are generated annually in collaboration with National Statistical Office (NSO) and Department of Immigration & Citizenship Services.

The expert, whom we do not name, presented Malawi’s latest data on tourism report which is outdated to 2021 and the top 10 countries by visitors to this country are Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, Germany (the only European), India, Guinea and Nigeria.

“No European country surpassed Nigerian number of visits, yet it is the least top 10 with 987 entries into Malawi. We rely on Zambians, who mostly could be Malawians living there but having Zambian passports.

“The problem with our country is not Visa but infrastructure — it’s very expensive to acquire Visa to United Arab Emirates UAE but people, including Malawians, still travel there. We play too much with this tourism thing,” he said.

In his SONA, Chakwera reiterated that his administration has gazetted the visa waiver program which he announced in the august House last year exempting travellers from 79 countries and territories from paying Visa fees.

He added that he expects the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to use this waiver to immediately begin negotiating with those countries and territories for more friendly Visa terms for Malawians traveling there as a way of increasing access to international markets for wealth creation.

On other countries who issue monthly reports, our source shared South Africa’s that was prepared in December 2023, which recorded that in that month alone, there were 3,478,783 travellers that entered and exited South Africa — made up of 1,094,176 South African residents and 2,384,607 foreign.

Foreign arrivals were at 1,183,035 made up of 22,990 non-visitors and 1,160,045 visitors of which 297,585 were same-day visitors and 862, 460 overnight tourists.

Overseas tourists were 205,684 or 23,8% of all tourists; UK (341,106); USA (33 027) and Germany (25,288) — contributing 48,3% to overseas tourists.

Southern African Development Community (SADC) tourists were 639,816 or 74,2% of all tourists; Zimbabwe (208,804), Mozambique (128,804) and Lesotho (106,786) contributing 69,4%. ‘

Non-SADC tourists were 15,951 or 1.8% of all tourists; Kenya (4,989), Ghana (3,393) and Uganda (1,825) contributing 64,0%.

Purpose of most visits were classified as holiday, which continues to be the main purpose of visit with about 97,9% of all the tourists.


When reached out, public relations officer for Ministry of Tourism & Wildlife, Joseph Nkosi confirmed that the country’s tourism industry statistics are compiled annually and that what is currently available is the 2021 report

“We’re currently compiling the data for the 2022-2023 reports, so they will be ready soon,” said Nkosi.

In his SONA, Chakwera said while tourism is still Malawi’s third largest source of foreign exchange after tobacco and tea, he remains “convinced that this sector continues to perform below its true potential”.

“And the obstacles that stand in the way of our full potential are mostly in other sectors, and this is why this past year we began to address the factors in other sectors that hold our tourism sector back.

“Chief among these factors is accessibility of our country, and I am pleased to report that not only have we increased the number of airlines traveling to Malawi, and are in the process of designing a Malawi Flight Plan for increased air access, but we have also concluded three Bilateral Air Service Agreements with Mozambique, Uganda, and Kuwait to introduce direct flights into Malawi, while talks with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritius, and Nigeria to do the same are in progress.”

Apart from the Visa waiver to the 79 countries, Chakwera said “another key ingredient for wealth creation through tourism is the development of the needed infrastructure and services.”

In pursuit of this goal, he announced that government has completed the acquisition of 52.7 hectares of beach land in T/A Maganga in Salima District for the Salima Integrated Hotel & Resort: “We have already invited private sector players to invest in the development of facilities and services through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.

“We have also continued to engage with tourism enterprises and hospitality industry players to offer incentives for the development of special packages for Malawians to boost local tourism as part of efforts to implement the Domestic Tourism Marketing Strategy.”

Thus using the 2021 data, Chakwera said as a result of all the efforts, being done, international arrivals have increased by about 64% from 2021, reaching approximately 708,000 in 2022.

“We expect a tourism boom following the interventions we have put in place more recently but as we prepare for that boom, we must get serious about understanding that tourism is an enterprise that involves every citizen as a marketer for the country.

“So political and community leaders have a responsibility to lead by example in how they speak about Malawi to outsiders or on international platforms — otherwise, we are making great progress in this area, and we will build on it to keep our recovery going.”

Our expert concurred with President on tourism being enterprising and while appreciating that some speak negatively about Malawi to outsiders or on international platforms, the Ministry of Tourism needs to pull up its socks in marketing the country.

Chakwera also hinted that “whether anyone likes it or not, inch by inch and layer by layer”, his administration is “dismantling every part of the system that was put in place by people who were not serious.”

He added that for the country’s development, “the only behaviour that shows seriousness is that which helps us focus on our priorities” — citing that the government has embarked on a wholesale review of regulatory state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and statutory parastatals “to ensure that those that are productive and profitable are made more efficient and those that just consume and make losses are administered a radical cure”.