By Gregory Gondwe
Malawi‘s hotels will now be classified by stars after the country launched hotel grading system this week.
Minister of Tourism Dr. Ken Lipenga said the stars will range from one to five, depending on the quality of their facilities and services.
During the launch of the grading system in Lilongwe Dr. Lipenga said government expects the grading system to raise the quality of tourist accommodation in the country.
He said God already made the country a five star country with Lake Malawi, Nyika Plateau, Mulanje Mountain, the friendliness of Malawi and the leadership the country.
“All we need now is to extend the five star services to tourism facilities and our services,” said Lipenga.
Dr. Lipenga called on the locals to be the first ones to protest against poor services in hotels if the hotel grading system has to work.
“This could transform the face of tourism in the country if consumers take the lead in demanding for the hotels to live up to their grading,” he said.
Patricia Liabuba the assistant director of tourism said under the grading system which is based on European and Southern African standards, a team of assessors from the Ministry of Tourism will conduct rigorous audits on major hotels and lodges.
“After the audit, which could take them up to three days on each unit, the assessors will report their findings and make recommendations of what grade each one should be given to the grading committee comprising government, private sector and consumer representative which will award the grades,” she said.
The team will look at everything including physical and service characteristics such as the external outlook and surroundings, gardens, parking spaces, the reception area and the attitude and efficiency of staff working there, the bedrooms and the décor, furniture and furnishings, bed linen, temperature control, spaciousness, accessories such as television and the channels they have, bathrooms, kitchen, public areas and the general atmosphere and ambience of the unit.
Liabuba said with the grading system, a hotel will now be called hotel while a lodge will be called lodge, based on the characteristics and standards it has. No one will just wake up, construct a place and call it a hotel.
Within the next twelve months, over 100 top accommodation units are set to be assessed and graded and the first batch of graded units will be announced by the end of this month and it will comprising the well known hotels in Blantyre and Lilongwe.
Malawi Tourism Association Chair Stan Phiri and Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito said hotel grading has been long overdue in Malawi, saying the industry welcomes the development as it will motivate them to improve their facilities.
“Members of the tourism industry need to cooperate with the authorities in the assessment and grading process of their places,” said Phiri.