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Malawi Introduces Visas for European, Asian Visitors

FILE - Seven-and-a-half month old orphaned elephant calf named Moses takes his daily walk with pet dogs Barney, left, Bagheera right, and foundation owner, Jenny Webb, center, at their home in Lilongwe, Malawi, Oct. 8, 2012..

Malawi is introducing entry visas for European and Asian nationals, a government minister said on Tuesday, charging $75 for each arrival in a move that tour operators say is already hitting the country's tourism industry.

Tourism is Malawi's third main foreign exchange earner, contributing 7.3 percent of GDP in 2014, official data shows, and tourist arrivals have doubled to over a million over the past 10 years.

"Malawi is not for free and we have now gazetted the plan for visitors from Europe and Asia to pay $75 at the point of entry, putting us at par with neighboring countries in southern Africa," Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Kalilani said on Tuesday.

The new visa system, announced in July, was delayed until Oct 1 to give adequate notice to travelers, but tour operators said tourists had been cancelling reservations.

"There is need for clarity because this is already costing us business and costing the country the much needed forex," said Mwenecho Simwaka, a tour consultant. Malawi depends on foreign aid for about 40 percent of its national budget.

Lake Malawi, which occupies one fifth of the country, is the main tourist attraction for the southern African nation, with more than 500 different fish species.

Malawi's economy is seen expanding by 5.4 percent in 2015 and 6.5 percent in 2016 after a 6.0 percent growth in 2014, with positive growth in most industries expected to continue, the central bank said last week.