afrol News / Savana, 2 January - In Mozambique, the tourism sector during 2006 generated revenues totalling US$ 144 million. It seems clear that also in future, the tourism industry will become Mozambique's major foreign exchange earner, as the sector already has become the main focus of foreign investors in the country.
This was announced by Mozambique's Minister of Tourism, Fernando Sumbana, during a recent meeting with the press in the capital, Maputo. "The sector demonstrated a growing performance with the national economy," said Minister Sumbana, adding that these private sector investments had increased their role in national tax collection.
The government representative considered that authorities therefore were reaching their objectives regarding the tourism sector, which include positioning Mozambique as a world-class tourist destination, creating new jobs, contributing to national economic growth, fighting poverty, among other aims.
Mozambique remains among the world's ten poorest countries. but has seen a booming development since it emerged from civil war over a decade ago. Especially neighbouring South Africans have invested heavily into Mozambican business, bringing with them experiences from their own well developed tourism industry. With its large, tropical coastline, pristine savannas and forests and superb wildlife, Mozambique is seen as having a vast tourism potential by South African investors.
This optimism has also proven right so far, as large amounts are poured into infrastructure development and marketing. According to the Mozambican Tourism Minister, the sector already is proving important to the socio-economic development of the country, contributing widely to Mozambique's balance of payments.
And the future plans are brilliant. During the next few years, the sector however still needs to overcome some major challenges, Minister Sumbana said. Quality needs to be raised to meet a new classification system that is developed to assure standards become competitive on regional and international levels.
The Maputo government also foresees that future development projects in the tourism sector firmly include social responsibility aspects. Investors were to be urged to present proposals that cover the social area.
One of the greatest challenges ahead is the organising of the 2010 soccer World Cup in neighbouring South Africa. The Tourism Ministry hopes that on that occasion, Mozambique will be able to make large revenues from the tourism sector due to the expected flow of foreigners to the region.
The Minister says he foresees several large investments to be finalised well ahead of the sports event, which include the launching of a Mozambican tourism portal, approving of a new regulatory tourism bill, stimulating responsible and sustainable tourism within an increased level of investment, introducing new ways of supporting the private sector and increasing domestic tourism.
However, at the press conference several journalists pointed to possible constraints that were already noted in the Mozambican tourist sector, as did Salomão Moyana, editor of the weekly 'Zambeze' newspaper.
"The first problem is prices. Everything is very expensive. With this type of prices, we cannot attract anybody to be tourists. There is no relation between quality and price," complained Mr Moyana, providing examples. Further, the widespread problem of corruption was brought up, especially with Traffic Police, which was said to "do anything to extort money from tourists."
Further, according to Mr Moyana, the Maputo government through the Ministry of Tourism needed to fast-track the expansion of the banking services to the tourist zones, thus facilitating the life of visitors. Banking services currently are very scarce outside Maputo and lack on several tourist destinations.
Mr Moyana finally lamented the total lack of hotels in several Mozambican cities, suggesting government embarked on necessary constructions to later be handed over to the private sector. "In the city of Inhambane, for example, there is no hotel at all," he said. Inhambane is a provincial capital some 500 kilometres north-east of Maputo, with well-known nearby beaches and a cathedral and an old mosque worth seeing.
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