News / Economy

Guerrilla Attacks Harm Mozambique Tourism

FILE - A South African-owned holiday camp on Inhaca Island, Mozambique, June 28, 2007.
FILE - A South African-owned holiday camp on Inhaca Island, Mozambique, June 28, 2007.
Reuters
With its picture-postcard Indian Ocean beaches, unspoilt coral reefs and laid-back southern African charm, Mozambique has been slowly putting its civil war past behind it and emerging as an attractive, albeit slightly chaotic, tourist destination.
 
But the threat of renewed conflict in a country still haunted by 16 years of war in which a million people died has dealt a major blow to the tourism drive.
 
Last month, the opposition Renamo party, a former guerrilla movement that took part in the 1975-1992 war, said it would disrupt traffic on roads and railways in the southern African country's central belt, its traditional stronghold.
 
In the ensuing 10 days, gunmen shot up several trucks and busses, killing at least two people and forcing vehicles plying the former Portuguese colony's main north-south highway to travel in convoys with military escorts.
 
Foreign embassies have issued warnings against all but essential travel through the region, especially near the town of Muxungue, 650 km (400 miles) north of Maputo, where tensions between Renamo and security forces flared in April.
 
Many visitors, local and foreign, are heeding the advice to stay away, even at the start of the busy Mozambican winter holiday period.
 
“If you're coming to us from Maputo by car you have to pass by Muxungue. There is no way around it,” said Sitoi Andaq, a receptionist at the Cuacua Lodge, which lies far to the north on the Zambezi River.
 
“This is normally one of our busiest weeks and yet the numbers have reduced significantly,” he said.
 
Even on the south side of the trouble spot, on the mainland or the sun-drenched islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago, hoteliers are feeling the pinch.
 
“I have had cancelations,” said Peggy Warrack, the South African owner of Casa Berry, an upmarket hotel in Tofo, home to what are widely regarded as Mozambique's best tourist beaches. “We are all concerned about it. Who wouldn't be? As it is, it is expensive to run a business in Mozambique, plus all the revenue we are losing because of this situation.”
 
Maputo Unfazed
 
In Maputo, Mozambique's seaside capital where Renamo and the ruling Frelimo party have held two months of fruitless talks about political reform, especially Frelimo's de facto control of the election commission, there are few signs of the most serious tensions between the civil war foes in nearly two decades.
 
The champagne corks are still popping in the city's ritzy bars and, amid the decaying colonial grandeur, luxury hotels continue to spring up - the most visible sign of a flood of foreign investment pouring in to Mozambique's vast northwest coal fields and offshore natural gas deposits.
 
“Mozambique is one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa and we do believe that tourism is one of the main factors that will move this country into the world market,” said Marco Veiga, manager at the Southern Sun Hotel, now undergoing a $30 million expansion.
 
The government, run by the formerly Marxist but now broadly free-market Frelimo, insists it has a handle on the security situation, and travel agencies are telling tourists to stay in the south or avoid the danger zone by flying to the north.
 
“We are working to win back the confidence that our tourists have always had in us. That is why we are working to maintain peace and ensure that their leisure and enjoyment are not interrupted,” Tourism Minister Carvalho Muaria told Reuters.
 
Renamo, founded around independence with the help of white-run Rhodesia, says it 'laments' the damage being inflicted on one of the world's poorest countries but argues its wider aim - to ease Frelimo's grip on power - is worth the temporary pain.
 
“We want to see more investors coming into Mozambique but the current moment of political tension does not permit this,” Renamo spokesman Fernando Mazanga said. “That is why we want to accelerate the talks with the government.”
 
Last Straw
 
The violence is the last thing Mozambique's tourism chiefs need on top of the usual headaches and costs of operating in a sleepy African backwater where nearly everything apart from beer and basic food has to be imported.
 
At the top end of the market, high-end resorts set on sun-drenched islands and surrounded by turquoise waters cater for jetsetters willing to pay $500 a night or more for a private slice of paradise.
 
By regional standards, the costs are high, not least because of the strength of the metical, another by-product of the billions of dollars flowing into the resources sector.
 
In 2011, the currency was the world's strongest performer against the dollar and has barely wavered this year while currencies such as South Africa's rand have fallen sharply on the prospect of the U.S. Federal Reserve winding down its economic stimulus measures.
 
Even before the Renamo threats, the costs and lack of reliable infrastructure were causing many tourists to overlook Mozambique, which attracts fewer than 2 million visitors a year - less than Zimbabwe or Botswana and a fraction of the 9.2 million that went to South Africa last year.
 
“Mozambique looks amazing in pictures but when you try to organize a trip there, it becomes a nightmare,” said Jessica Hughes, a translator from London.
 
“It's expensive, flights are rare, and when you call resorts listed online or in your guidebook, it seems they change owners nearly every year so you can't reach anybody.”
 
For some, however, the absence of hotels and coach-loads of visitors amid the pristine dunes remains something to cherish.
 
“I'm thinking about moving,” said Gustavo Sindiar, an environmental protection officer, gazing out over kilometers of undisturbed sea and sand near Bazaruto. “It is getting way too crowded here,” he joked.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: delhitojaipurtaxi from: india
July 12, 2013 8:47 AM
This is normally one of our busiest weeks and yet the numbers have reduced significantly,”

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9115
JPY
USD
123.92
GBP
USD
0.6554
CAD
USD
1.2443
INR
USD
63.800

Rates may not be current.