t's hard to believe that I'm already
registering for autumn trade events ... here it is not even summer
yet, officially. But it's time to get signed up for ASTA Seville
and World Travel Market, in London. The two events are back-to-back
this year, which means it will be a long trip.
As I wandered around WTM last year, I came upon a new exhibitor:
the African nation of Malawi.
The country is inching its way into tourism, slowly but surely.
A neighbor of Tanzania and traversed by the Great Rift Valley,
Malawi is trying very hard to build a competitive tourism
The country was visited by British explorer David Livingstone in
1859, and there's a town in the northern part of the country called
Livingstonia. In the 1950s, what is now Malawi was part of the
Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. It gained independence in
I have a personal connection to Malawi. For about the last eight
years, my husband and I have been Save the Children sponsors
Our first sponsored child, a young boy, wrote us letters around
the holidays, sent pictures he had drawn and twice mailed us a
picture of himself -- with the help of a field worker.
In the last picture we received, he had grown tall. Several
months ago, a letter from the field worker informed us that our
sponsored child's family was moving to another area, and we would
be assigned another youngster.
A few weeks later, a letter from our new sponsored child turned
up in the mail, translated by the field worker, and stapled to the
letter were pencil drawings of a house, a ball, a tree and a truck.
So now we have a youngster in our lives again.
He said he is in grade five and likes math and football. He has
a brother and likes to eat fish. His parents are farmers who grow
maize, beans and groundnuts.
Our young fellow said that Save the Children installed toilets
in his school and provides first-aid kits, medicines and notebooks
for him and his schoolmates.
He asked us to write him back.
This isn't a pitch for Save the Children, although I do believe
it's an important organization. Aside from helping the community in
ways that affect its children, we've found that sponsoring a
youngster makes us feel that in a small way we might be doing some
good for a kid who doesn't enjoy the privileges that we grew up
with and that, largely, we took for granted.
Someday, Malawi might be as well known for its upscale safaris
as Kenya or Tanzania are today. I hope so. And I hope that the
youngsters we've sponsored will someday reap the benefits of
Who knows ... maybe one of our sponsored kids will grow up to be
a naturalist tour guide, or a safari operator -- or a tourism
Donna Tunney is executive editor of Travel Weekly, Travel
Weekly Crossroads and Travel Management Daily.