Eyes right towards Mozambique

Mozambique coastline

While there is no really new destination, or a number one “hot” travel destination, there are some that have recently come more into focus than usual, for whatever the reason. Mozambique is one of them. While southern Africans may have been visiting the country for decades, only recently has the wider world taken stock, and writers are now adding it onto their annual lists of ‘exotic destinations’ or ‘independent traveller choices’. Some tour operators this year reported that sales for voluntourism projects in Mozambique were also doing particularly well.
Mozambique was one of the three finalists in line to receive the New Frontiers Award at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai in May this year, along with Vietnam and California, the latter becoming the outright winner. The award, organised by Reed Travel Exhibitions, was given to the destination that has made an outstanding contribution to tourism development “in the face of overwhelming adversity”.
The short listed destinations were chosen considering factors including their utilisation of aid packages, support from local and national government, tangible efforts of recovery and what organisers called “the sheer determination of the human spirit”.
The panel of judges from travel industry professionals chose three out of 10 finalists, agreeing that Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world, was making all efforts to bolster tourism as it was seen to be a potential lifesaver for the country. Supported by grants from both the World Bank and USAID, the government said that revenue from international tourists rose to over $144 million last year, a 50 per cent increase in just two years.
Euromonitor International’s Travel and Tourism in Mozambique report in 2007 said that the government there had been making efforts to privatise part of its transport sector in order to be able to increase investments in infrastructure - main roads, rail, bridges and the privatisation of ports, terminals, airports and the national airline. There was low growth in the total number of travel accommodation outlets, but that any new investments in hotels would most likely cater for the higher income traveller.
However, Euromonitor stated that major factors deterring tourism to Mozambique were high crime rates and high airfares to the region.
Tourism Minister Fernando Sumbana Júnior announced at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2008 in May that his country had four key areas of tourism development open to investors. The Anchor Investment Sites, a joint initiative of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Ministry of Tourism, is expected to generate over $1 billion investment in the country’s emerging tourism sector.
 “We have identified specific areas in Mozambique which are available for immediate investment,” Júnior said. “We did feasibility studies on those four sites, showing the character of the areas and the probabilities of the type of investments that can take place there. We want to encourage sustainable development, low density high yield projects.”
IFC country manager for Mozambique Babatunde Onitiri said, “We are looking for larger scale developers and operators with a proven track record of similar developments in other emerging markets that subscribe to environmentally and socially sound development principles.”
Interest materialised from Dubai and North Africa as a result of his AHIC attendance, and Júnior was also keen to reach other Gulf States. “Investors will have to prove they are going to be environmentally responsible and are going to build a project in an area where they have the required expertise,” he said.
Dubai World Africa is planning to invest $200 million in the Bilene Hotel, a luxury beach resort, golf estate and eco development along four kilometres of prime beachfront in Mozambique. Lying north of Maputo, the resort spans 1,000 ha and encompasses the Sao Martinho Lagoon, nature reserve and turtle breeding area.
The development will include the creation of an international competition standard golf course, a five star hotel as well as 500 golf course and beach villas and condos, watersport facilities and a diving centre. The resort will be served by its own airport, Bilene Praia. Dubai World Africa based in Cape Town was still in the initial stages of transactions with the Mozambique government.  Dubai Ports World currently operates the Maputo container terminal at the port of Maputo.
IFA Hotels & Resorts, developers of premier integrated and mixed-use hotel and tourism resort projects and luxury leisure services with head offices in Kuwait, considers Africa a good market and was also looking towards Mozambique and other African countries.
by Cheryl Mandy

Mozambique Tourism is at WTM on stand AF4225 along with Gorongosa National Park and other exhibitors from that country.