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Mozambique expects a peaceful election in October to revive its image as a popular tourist destination after a series of kidnappings prompted many foreigners to shun the African country’s white sandy beaches.
Tourism revenue fell more than 10 percent in 2013 to $222 million from the previous year because of the abductions and worsening violence between the army and a militia loyal to the main opposition Renamo party, said Tourism Minister Carvalho Muaria.
“People just don’t like to visit places where there are problems,” Muaria said in an interview in Lisbon yesterday. “The situation is getting back to normal after Renamo said it would work to take part in the elections and it knows it can’t take part in the vote if it creates problems of banditry.”
Mozambique, the site of the world’s biggest natural gas discovery in the past decade, is investing in roads, bridges and railway lines to diversify its economy and attract foreign investment. Since the end of the country’s 17-year civil war in 1992 visitors had increasingly flocked to sunbathe on Indian Ocean beaches and feast on seafood.
Last year’s worsening violence in Mozambique prompted the Portuguese and Canadian governments to advise its citizens against non-essential travel to some of the country’s provinces. The tourism industry accounts for about 7 percent of the former Portuguese colony’s gross domestic product, according to Muaria.
A peaceful run-up to the presidential vote may help increase tourism revenue by as much as 35 percent to $300 million in 2014 from the previous year, Muaria said. Investment in the industry may rise to as much as $900 million in 2014 from about $800 million last year, he said.
“There are some international hotel chains interested in Mozambique,” Muaria said. “There is also a big interest from investors from the Middle East,” he said, without providing details.
Mozambique’s ruling Frelimo party picked Defense Minister Filipe Nyussi on March 2 as its presidential nominee for the October elections to replace President Armando Guebuza, who will step down after completing two terms in office.
“We think he will also win the support of people of Mozambique,” Muaria said. “I’m confident he will win.”
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