Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Where have all the tourists gone?

A previous post which I published in September 2014 highlighted the plight of tourist arrivals to this vast country on our eastern seaboard. Now in August 2015 I take another look at Mozambique and need to beg the question, “what is going on and where are the tourists”? Much can be said of this situation as tourist numbers continue to remain low and in a lot of cases unsustainable for many of the lodges along this beautiful coastline. At the end of the civil war in 1993 (22 years ago) interest was once again stimulated by Mozambique’s attractive coastline and investors began exploring Mozambique. In these early days many of these adventurers were from South Africa and Zimbabwe and the country had little or no infrastructure as a result of the 25 years of civil war. These pioneers persevered, negotiated land, paid their dues and lodges began springing up along this pristine coastline. Most of the development is today still in 5 tourist nodes along the coast namely Maputo, Ponta do Ouro, Inhambane, Vilanculos/ Bazaruto Archipelago and Pemba/ Quirimbas Archipelago. As time went by international interest grew resulting in multi-million dollar investments in upmarket and luxurious lodges. This investment was based on faith in a growing tourist economy as well as a belief in the support of the Mozambique tourism authorities, national airline and a stable government.
A large percentage of the tourists visiting Mozambique are South African who either fly in or self-drive. Let’s deal with each of these modes of transport on their own merit.
Flying is definitely the quickest and direct flights from O.R Tambo are available to Maputo, Inhambane, Vilanculos and Pemba with private air transfers to the islands. The national carrier LAM monopolises all these routes (I’m sure I’ve heard this about another airline…oh yes, SAA) and of course dictates to the market. The airline was blacklisted by the EU in 2011 which has made it very difficult for tour operators to offer fully inclusive packaged tours via ORTIA to their source markets. Many of the international tourists visiting Mozambique came on packaged holidays which also included South Africa and even Botswana hence the reason to use ORTIA as a hub. Other airlines such as SA Airlink then started flying the Maputo, Vilanculos and Pemba routes however much of this interest was also stimulated by the burgeoning oil and gas industry. This has now resulted in what I can only call greed as airfares are mostly exorbitant.
A Flight between O.R Tambo and Inhambane or Vilanculos return will cost a little under R6000 per person and if you need a 15 minute air transfer to the islands add on another R5000 per person. LAM are also not referred to as “Late And Maybe” for no reason as they have become notorious for late, delayed and sometimes cancelled flights leaving passengers stranded. I once spent 6 hours at Inhambane airport waiting for my flight back to ORTIA only to be hauled off after dark on a flight to Maputo and then back to ORTIA the following morning. I also remember a similar experience in Pemba…
Driving via the Komatipoort border post is now a lot more pleasant than it used to be although it can still be a painful experience particularly over peak holiday periods and long weekends. Hot, dusty and with corrupt Mozambique officials willing to overlook anything for a dollar or 2. Once you’re through the border be vigilant.
The police are everywhere as they pounce on timid tourists for completely unfounded spot fines. Visit the Moz Forum Facebook page and you will find regular comments about these corrupt officials extorting money out of law abiding tourists. All these issues have been raised with tourism authorities over the years with a view to educating the police, customs and other relevant government officials as to the value of tourism however this seems to have all come to nought. On a positive note the drive up the EN1 is scenic and interesting and of course arriving at your chosen beach destination exciting to say the least. See my previous post on this topic titled “Mozambique Musings”. Most of the meaningful marketing has been done by individual lodges as they realised the need to invest in pro-active marketing and pass on their passion for a new, unique and pristine destination. Over the years this resulted in Mozambique getting onto the map in terms of leisure travel, scuba diving and deep sea fishing. The Mozambique tourism authority INATUR does promote the country however this is a much more generic approach and also aimed at both leisure and business travellers so it is once again up to the individuals to dig deep and spend wisely on their marketing as best they can. Dealing with government and the cumbersome bureaucracy is draining as the rules and regulations are ever-changing resulting in fines being imposed all the time for anything deemed irregular. These fines can sometimes be almost crippling in their severity and produce a very negative sentiment rather than the opposite of updating the lodge owners in terms of changes and updates to all the legal and financial requirements. Of course we need to also consider the political situation which since local elections in 2013 and general elections in 2014 have led to a certain amount of discourse between Frelimo and Renamo. This has led to skirmishes, attacks on vehicles and unrest in certain areas of the country. When this happens countries such as the UK and USA do not hesitate to simply put out a blanket ban and travel advisories telling their citizens not to visit the country. Local South African tabloids are also quick to pounce on to a topic of local interest such as this and cancellations follow very quickly for many lodges. The biggest source market for inbound tourism to Mozambique is South Africa and this brings us to the hard truth. Mozambique has based the value of its currency, the Meticais, on the US Dollar making it more and more expensive for South Africans to visit the country and who by nature are adventurous as the intrigue, excitement and expectation of visiting this largely untouched coastline brought them across the borders in their droves. However the cost of travel has now reached a barrier caused by long distances, expensive airfares and high cost of purchasing food and beverages in Mozambique. Notwithstanding the ever escalating cost of living South Africans are also having to face.   Most of the produce and supplies available at the lodges is still, after 20 years, imported from South Africa and becomes expensive when transport and taxes are added. The drive from Johannesburg to Inhambane is almost 1300 kilometres and with the cost of fuel becomes another hindrance. Then we take into account the cost of bribes we need to beg the question again, “Why go there”?
Other destinations can also be very competitive in terms of cost as well as value for money. These include Thailand, Malaysia as well as Zanzibar. Aren’t there good beaches closer to home? Isn’t there really good diving along our Natal coastline? See my piece on scuba diving at Sodwana Bay as well as other reviews on my blog. Isn’t it cheaper to holiday at home in SA and the answer is simply, YES it is. It’s easier, cheaper, more tourist friendly and more accessible. For self-catering it is also a lot cheaper and easier buying your supplies as you need them from a local supermarket rather than hauling a week’s supply of groceries to your destination. So in closing let’s just say Mozambique can be a great destination however the powers that be need to recognize the value of inbound tourism and has got its work cut out if tourism is to survive and prosper (and again I’ve heard this recently about our local SA market). When will AFRICA learn…?

Helicopter with suspected history

A helicopter of the South African origin was seized last Saturday by the Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM) Vilankulo district in Inhambane province, after making two landings on administrative Mapinhane station, near the Catholic mission 100 meters from National Highway Number one (EN1). According to the chief of operations of the District Command of the PRM in Vilankulo, Julião Ruben, the device with Zs-CWV enrollment R44 kind in circumstances operated by two South African citizens, now in police custody, in particular, Jacobus Strydon and Van Wyk, departed on Saturday from Maputo to the city of Pemba and carried out two unauthorized landings in Mapinhane, a situation which created panic and fear in populations that have come to take refuge in the bush. Ruben explained that the helicopter, when it was allowed in the civil aviation services to fly in the national air space under the number of IACM / DTA & 2989-2015, hover doubt on the activities and mission of the same occupants because, according to data collected in the investigation Preliminary, the device emitted signs of lack of fuel which allegedly precipitated an emergency landing in the bush. 
"The helicopter is capable of flying three hours and twenty minutes. However, this, after lifting the flight in the capital, landed three hours of time and ten minutes, then there are many things in the twilight zone by unraveling because we need to know where spent fuel from which has gone before Mapinhane reach the point of running out of fuel because when he landed already had three hours of time and ten minutes, "said the head of operations. The aircraft, according to one police officer, came from Kimg Shaka region in South Africa on 21 August current to Maputo, flying at an altitude of 1500 feet and a 105 kilometers per hour. Before landing in Maputo have also made an emergency landing in the region of Matutuine in Maputo province, allegedly for the same reasons, lack of fuel. "We want to determine the main reasons that forced these emergency landings because as we know, the pilots know the capacity of the helicopter and the flight time without refueling, now we want to know what happened to run out of fuel. Does the aircraft landed elsewhere before Mapinhane or not, "asks Ruben. Data not confirmed by the police indicate that last Saturday a helicopter will be flown in Ribye region in Funhalouro, area where hidden affirmed men RENAMO, thus leading suspect that may be the same now seized what might have been in spy missions . Police did not confirm nor deny this possibility, he explains however that there is any need to find out the main reasons of unauthorized landings in the country, allegedly for lack of fuel. It is known, however, that three weeks ago the police arrested four foreigners in Zavala district with a remotely controlled airplane. The pilots were justified to carry out flights to aerial imagery for some geophysical surveys. On that occasion, the head of public relations in the PRM Provincial Command, Jumȃ Ali Dauto, this strange justification, as he said, it should have been authorized by the entitled party which did not happen.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

US$1-billion budget will fund youth-led projects in rural

A sum of US$1 billion is available to fund development initiatives proposed by finalists and young university graduates, according to Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development, Celso Correia, speaking during a discussion meeting on rural development."The Government will provide, in partnership with commercial banks, a one billion dollar line of credit at an average interest of five percent, for the implementation of private sector anchor projects in rural areas."
clubofmozambiqueThe discussion was organized by the University Finalists Student Association of Mozambique (AEFUM), and was attended by academic Filipe Couto, former dean of Eduardo Mondlane University, and by the president of AEFUM, Osvaldo Mauaie.Minister Correia pointed to agri-food, renewable energy and micro-finance sectors as having the potential for young people to leverage the development of districts over the next five years.
The Stimulus Package for the Rural Economy, part of Project Star (Projecto Estrela), focuses on areas of the country with untapped potential and relies on structured and rigorous financing for anchor projects in rural areas.Although efforts are being made by the government to attract financial institutions, it is estimated that 50 percent of districts in Mozambique are not serviced by commercial banks. This opens opportunities for microfinance institutions to fill the gap.In the agri-food sector, Correia argues that the aim should be to improve production and productivity and so use less land, although a high percentage of fertile land is uncultivated.Couto emphasises that income generation and local development initiatives should not always rely on government funding, which is not available for all projects."We should always look out for examples that can help us develop our initiatives. It is important to value local knowledge, learn from experiences – like 'xitique' – and not always wait for help from the government," he stressed.Speaking on behalf of the students, Osvaldo Mauaie cited some of the challenges facing the districts, such as lack of infrastructure or qualified personnel to ensure the provision of quality services and attract investment."Limited local capacity and high levels of unemployment, especially among youngsters and graduates, are also challenges," he added.
The 150 districts

Mozambique has 150 districts, distributed among 11 provinces: Cabo Delgado province (districts of Ancuabe, Balama, Chiúre,Ibo, Macomia, Mecúfi, Meluco, Metuge, Mocímboa da Praia,Montepuez, Mueda,Muidumbe, Namuno, Nangade, Palma, Pemba and Quissanga); Niassa province (districts of Cuamba, Lago, Lichinga, Majune, Mandimba, Marrupa, Maúa, Mavago, Mecanhelas, Mecula, Metarica, Muembe, N'gauma, Nipepe and Sanga), Nampula province (districts of Angoche, Eráti, Lalaua, Malema, Meconta, Mecubúri, Memba, Mogincual, Mogovolas, Moma, Monapo,Mossuril, Muecate, Murrupula, Nacala-a-Velha, Nacarôa, Nampula and Ribaué); Tete ( districts of Angónia, Cahora-Bassa, Changara, Chifunde, Chiuta, Macanga, Magoé, Marávia, Moatize, Mutarara, Tsangano and Zumbo); Zambezia province (districts of Alto Molócue, Chinde, Gilé, Gurué, Ile, Inhassunge, Lugela, Maganja da Costa, Milange, Mocuba, Mopeia, Morrumbala, Namacurra, Namarroi, Nicoadala, Pebane, Derre, Luabo, Mulumbe and Mucubela), Manica province (districts of Bárue, Gondola, Guro, Machaze, Macossa, Manica, Mossurize, Sussundenga and Tambara), Sofala (districts of Búzi, Caia, Chemba, Cheringoma, Chibabava, Dondo, Gorongosa, Machanga, Maringué, Marromeu, Muanza and Nhamatanda); Gaza province (districts of Bilene, Chibuto, Chicualacuala, Chigubo, Chókwè, Guijá, Mabalane, Manjacaze, Massangena, Massingir and Xai-Xai); Inhambane province (districts of Funhalouro, Govuro, Homoíne, Inhambane, Inharrime, Inhassoro, Jangamo, Mabote, Massinga, Morrumbene, Panda, Vilanculos and Zavala); Maputo Province (districts of Boane, Magude, Manhiça, Marracuene, Matutuíne, Moamba and Namaacha); and Maputo City.

Jardim Tunduro Gardens rehabilitation

Resultado de imagem para jardim tunduruSlow progress on the rehabilitation of Maputo’s Tunduro botanical gardens has begun to worry Maputo residents. Works began in October, 2013 and were expected to be completed in a year.
"I'm happy they’re being rehabilitated, but unhappy with the slow pace of work, which indicates a lack of commitment on the part of the contractor," Maputo resident Jacinto Castro is quoted by Folha de Maputo as saying on Wednesday.Another member of the public questioned by Folha de Maputo, Manuel Domingos, said that, in addition to delays, he was worried that the rehabilitation was not up to standard. "The works are taking too long to complete, and in my opinion they are not of good quality," he said. There are others who disagree, but nonetheless condemn the delay in completing the project. "I like the rehabilitation and the quality is good, but the rate of progress is unacceptable," said Faustino Quissico.
Resultado de imagem para jardim tunduruThe rehabilitation of Tunduro gardens is being carried out by Ceta SA Construcão e Serviços, and was supposed to have been completed by October last year.The botanical gardens were designed by Englishman Thomas Honney in the late 19th Century the same man who in his career also designed gardens for the King of Greece and the Sultan of Turkey.The botanical gardens are currently under the administration of the Maputo City Council. The Maputo Tennis Club has its courts in the garden's grounds, the same place where the Mozambican tennis Federation has its headquarters.

Nyusi's choice

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi appointed four new members of the State Council yesterday.
clubofmozambiqueThey are Alberto Joaquim Chipande, member of the Frelimo party political commission and former minister of Defense (1975-1986); former minister of Education and first lady of Mozambique, Graça Simbine Machel; member of parliament and former prime minister, Alberto Clementino António Vaquina; and president of the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM) and Mayor of Beira cty, capital of Sofala province, Daviz Mbepo Simango.The State Council is chaired by the President. Currently sitting on the council are: the Speaker of Parliament, Verónica Macamo; the Prime Minister, Carlos Agostinho do Rosário; the President of the Constitutional Council, Hermenegildo Gamito; the Ombudsman, José Abudo; former presidents Joaquim Chissano and Armando Guebuza; former speakers of parliament Marcelino dos Santos and Eduardo Mulémbwé; seven members elected by parliament; the four new members appointed by the President; and, as the person with the second-largest tally of votes for the post of president, Afonso Dhlakama.Renamo has so far refused to accept the appointment of a member of the MDM among the seven members elected by parliament.
Phot: From Left to right, top to bottom: Daviz Simango, Graça Machel, Alberto Vaquina, Alberto Chipande