12 June 2014

Mozambique hit by travel advisories 
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 

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The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued a renewed travel advisory for Mozambique and is warning against all but essential travel to Sofala Province, with the exception of the provincial capital, Beira.


The FCO outlines there have been armed clashes between government of Mozambique security forces and the armed Renamo opposition party since 2013. Most of these clashes, including the most recent on June 4, have been in Sofala Province on the main north-south N1 road. There have also been isolated incidents in Manica, Nampula and Inhambane Provinces. 


The political unrest and ensuing travel advisories have had a severe impact on the country’s tourism sector with tour operators reporting dwindling numbers to the country. Sunway Safaris has seen a definite decline in the number of bookings on its tours into Central Mozambique and Malawi. The operator also received a substantial number of cancellations for Mozambique.  Shaun Waring-Jones, founder of Sunway Safaris, says he is advising travellers that the Southern regions from Maputo to Inhambane are relatively safe but that the areas north of Inhambane should be avoided.


Shaun says he has temporarily adjusted some of the itineraries to exclude parts of Mozambique. He says Sunway Safaris, for example, changed the route of the 21-day Trade Route Safari, which originally travelled south through Mozambique from Malawi to the Transfrontier Park and the Kruger National Park. “Our tour now returns safely through Zambia and Zimbabwe. Obviously we do not want to endanger our clients and staff so we are not traveling through the Sofala area presently.”  


Ema Batey, a consultant for the USAID Office, said the tourism losses Mozambique incurred as a result of the recent conflict situation were reported in ‘Economic cost of conflict in Mozambique: Assessing the economic impacts of renewed conflict on the tourism sector’, which was published in April this year.


According to Ema, direct losses to Mozambique's tourism industry caused by the conflict are estimated at slightly more than $10m (R107m) between November 2013 and January 2014. She said operators reported a 50% drop in business over the peak season (December-January) compared with previous years. The average occupancy rates being achieved across all market segments in Vilanculos in March 2014 was 5% to 10% in comparison with 35% to 60% in 2011. Ema further added tourism establishments are foreseeing a reduction of staff by 30% to 50% in 2014 if tourism didn’t recover to pre-2012 levels within six months. 


Ema explained in the report that arrivals from South Africa had declined considerably between 2010 and 2013 with 946 583 arrivals in 2010 compared with 872 017 in 2013. Despite the decline in numbers, South Africa accounts for the bulk of Mozambique’s regional traffic with a share of 44% of all regional visitors to Mozambique.