When Covid-19 all but shut down the tourism industry in early 2020, many restrictions were put in place including working from the office, city-to-city movements and attendance of out-of-town workshops. Apart from the suspension of business travel, the pandemic itself left little incentive to travel for both individuals and families.
Having been vaccinated, many Malawians are now more at ease to travel. However, the local tourism industry continues to suffer due to the reduced number of international tourists coming into the country. So, what local incentives and interventions can we take to boost domestic travel?
Shorter workweeks could help boost domestic tourism and benefit local tour operators who continue to feel the pinch of the COVID-19 pandemic
Last year when global Covid-19 infections somewhat eased, some countries with proven domestic tourism plans put their marketing efforts into top gear in a bid to help struggling tourism establishments. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Arden went further and floated the idea of introducing 4-day working weeks to promote local travel believing it would help revive the economy.
Tie holidays to corporate social responsibility
Shorter working weeks in Malawi could be one way of encouraging more local travel and visits to farther destinations. Companies could, as part of their corporate social responsibility efforts and a way to incentivise staff, allow employees to take a maximum number of short working weeks in a year in return for carrying out one day of philanthropic or conservation work. The employee would use a Friday morning to mentor tour guides and local handicraft makers in simple digital and marketing skills to help them in their social media promotion efforts. Another activity could be an employee participating in a reafforestation exercise or giving a community talk on how nature and wildlife conservation has a direct benefit to that community and the country as a whole. These CSR activities would be pre-organised by the company and in an area of their liking.
Shorter workweeks to help local craftsmen benefit from mentorship and training under corporate social responsibility programmes.
These employees would take their families along who would equally benefit from the engagement with the locals of the area. It would be a learning experience for both the community and the family (tourists). After the activity, the family would then have the rest of the weekend to enjoy their vacation, partially sponsored by the employers.
Opportunity for tourism operators
This would also be an opportunity for local tourism properties and establishments to identify issues in their local communities that need business support, mentoring or financial assistance. At the end of the day, all the people involved will be winners!
I love this Toyota Fortuner TV advert below. It goes to show that being productive at your workplace does not have to mean being tethered to a desk in an office. Most areas in Malawi enjoy good internet connectivity, good enough to get the most essential work done.
Move holidays to weekends
Some employers would not want to or would not be able to let employees take days off. Totally acceptable. In that case, the Department of Tourism could lobby the Malawi Government to deliberately create shorter working weeks by pushing national holidays to Fridays or Mondays. These would be holidays like Kamuzu Day, John Chilembwe Day and Mothers Day that fall in the middle of a week. Specific holidays like Independence Day or those of a global nature like Christmas and Easter would be exempt.
The whole of the second week of January could be set aside to commemorate John Chilembwe and other heroes who fought for the freedom of Malawians but set Friday as the actual holiday. Companies could encourage and sponsor staff and their families to travel to Providence Industrial Mission (PIM) to learn and participate in activities of the day and that whole weekend.
The same idea could be used for Martyrs Day, allowing families to travel to Nkhata Bay to visit the memorial to victims of the 1959 massacre. They would also have the beautiful beaches of Chintheche and Kande to enjoy for the rest of the weekend. For Kamuzu Day, tourists could visit Nguru ya Nawambe in Kasungu for a historical tour of Kamuzu’s life and thereafter head off either west to Kasungu National Park or east to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.
Having three full holiday days would give enough time to families to enjoy longer holidays farther away. It would also provide much-needed revenue to local tour operators, crafts makers and tourism players. Tidziyamba Ndife a Malawi!