Nyasa Times Leeds Chancy Namadzunda
Displayed with permission from allAfrica.com

Malawi government has finally granted the go ahead for Likoma Island airport to start operating international flights in an attempt to increase revenue generated through tourism.

Speaking at an event organized to handover the airport to the Airports Developments Limited (ADL) on Tuesday, Minister of Transport and Public Works Jappie Mhango said granting Likoma an international license will spur the tourism sector.

This, he said, has the potential to accelerate the country’s economy.

“As part of the government’s reform agenda, we hope to see more tourists coming to the country. The more tourists will visit, the more government and businesses will generate revenue. There is no better place to start with than Likoma when it comes to harnessing such opportunities,” Mhango said.

The airport has earned international gateway following an upgrade done by the ADL.

Likoma airport- which was first opened in 2009 – now has a new runway, fence and terminal building.

According to Mhango, Likoma Island has potential to attract tourists because of historic sites such as the 1905 Anglican Church which is the third biggest in Africa, rare fresh water fish species, unique bird species and cultural dances.

However, the island is cut off from the mainland mainly due to lack of reliable transport.

It normally takes over 5 hours to travel between Likoma Island and Nkhata Bay.

And it takes another 4 hours to travel between Mzuzu and Lilongwe.

The minister however says with the introduction of direct flights, tourists interested in visiting the island will have direct access.

Mhango says government is encouraged with inquiries it is receiving from prospective investors interested in initiating projects on the Island.

“There are already investors who are willing to invest in a hotel and a casino on the Island. We believe more will come and this will increase the revenue base for both citizens and government,” he added.

ADL Chief Executive Officer (CEO) corroborated with Mhango, observing that airports can be a catalyst for improving state economies.

“No economy can thrive without a vibrant transport sector. The air transport sector is one of the pillars for accelerated growth in any economy. We are honored to be tasked with the noble responsibility of revitalizing the country’s economy by making Likoma an international tourism hub,” said Chattaika.

Principal Secretary in the ministry of industry, trade and tourism Isaac Katopola is on record to have projected a positive impact on the country’s economy once Likoma airport opens direct access to international tourists.

Meanwhile, government is yet to establish the Civil Aviation Authority, through an Act of Parliament, a move that will see the ADL finally transform into a new airports company.

Under the Act of Parliament, regulatory and airports management will be clearly demarcated.

Chattaika says government already approved the recommendation on ADL’s transformation in the on-going public sector reforms programme.

The reforms also include the introduction of new revenue streams such as automated car parks, airport development fees and retaining of passengers’ service fees in the country’s major airports.

Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :