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

Ukraine President Appeals for More US Support

Speaking before Congress ahead of meeting with President Obama, Petro Poroshenko urges lawmakers to back Ukraine in its quest for freedom and democracy More

Photogallery Global Audience Watches as Scots Go to the Polls

People were almost equally divided over a vote for independence, watched closely by Britain's allies, investors and restive regions at home and abroad More

China to Invest $20 billion In India Amid Border Dispute

Border spat between armies of two countries in Himalayas underlines mutual tensions despite growing commercial ties highlighted by Xi Jinping's high profile visit 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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7718
JPY
USD
107.32
GBP
USD
0.6125
CAD
USD
1.0974
INR
USD
60.919

Rates may not be current.