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.
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

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Tattoos, hookah bars and doughnuts? Google Maps lays out what people really have on their minds during the holiday

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.