Emerging Player

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Southern Africa looks to be nurturing a new economic powerhouse, as Mozambique shows strong growth and a boom in business travel, off the back of sustained demand for the country’s growing suite of mineral resources. Richard Holmes investigates.

In its latest report on Mozambique, Portuguese bank BPI noted that its former colony “is resisting a slowdown in world economic activity and maintaining a high rate of expansion, as a result of the recent development of the mining sector and increasing influxes of foreign investment into the country.”

“Despite starting from a reduced basis, the country may soon become one of the countries with the biggest economic growth, able to exceed rates of growth recorded in China,” continued the BPI report.

And those growth rates are certainly impressive. Although it may – admittedly – be off a low base, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the economy to grow 8.4% in 2013, while African Economic Outlook suggests 7.9% is likely for the coming year. Much of that growth is being driven by exports, with aluminium from the massive Mozal smelter accounting for up to 40% of export revenues. Enormous coal reserves discovered near Tete in the country’s north-west have also been critical for the resources boom, with knock-on effects for other sectors of the economy. Beira, as the main export hub for the coal, has seen a marked growth in economic activity, while most business travellers transit through Maputo and often overnight in the capital.

“Segments that have led the last 12 to 18 months’ growth have been oil, gas and minerals,” confirms Ewan Cameron, CEO of Lonrho Hotels, which operates the Hotel Cardoso in Maputo. He says that the dearth of hotel offerings in Tete and Beira have boosted demand for rooms in the capital.

“Limited hotel accommodation and flights into these two destinations contributed to additional demand for hotel services in the capital.  As the wider economy takes off, other sectors – banking, construction and retail – are now also increasing their activities and therefore their need for hotel services in Maputo. Demand appears to be increasing.”

“Business travel is definitely on the rise in Mozambique, especially in Maputo, as many international companies are now opening offices in Mozambique,” agrees Miguel Alfonso dos Santos, General Manager of the Hotel Polana in Maputo. “In the past two years, it is visible that the main sector for travel is the mining industry and service providers related to this sector, however government travel is also very frequent.”

While much political and corporate travel is centred on the southern capital of Maputo, a handful of northern cities are becoming increasingly important stops for business travellers.

“Pemba is increasingly becoming a business rather than a leisure destination, with direct flights from O.R. Tambo International, as well as to Tete and Beira,” says Cameron.

Tete is of particular interest for business travellers, with the recent opening of a Park Inn by Radisson hotel a long overdue addition to the city’s landscape.

“There is a demand for quality accommodation and meeting facilities in Tete, where the business is heavily dependent on the local mining industry,” notes Friedrich Schaefer, Regional Director sub-Saharan Africa for the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. “The Park Inn being a mid-market brand is ideally suited for this location, offering hassle-free comfort, a good quality product, personalised service and great value for money.” 

With a growth in corporate travel, the hospitality industry is also expecting a parallel growth in conference travel, as multi-nationals and government take advantage of the growing array of meetings, incentive, conference and events (MICE) facilities.

“Corporate conferences in Maputo are on the rise,” says Dos Santos. “However, the city still lacks beds to accommodate large conference and private business travellers at the same time.”

“The MICE sector will play an important part of our business in Maputo… the close proximity to Johannesburg makes Maputo a good alternative for corporate meetings,” says Schaefer, adding: “Tete will be more driven by smaller conferences and meetings generated by the local mining companies.”

While Mozambique’s economy – battered by decades of civil war – certainly has a long road ahead until it can be called anywhere near recovered, that road may well be paved in the lucrative clothes of coal and gas. And corporate travellers from Europe to Asia are boarding now for a slice of the action.

FACT FILE

Population: 23 million

Time zone: GMT +2

Electricity: Two-prong round pins, European-style

Dialling code: +258

Currency: Mozambican Metical. US$1=MNM29.2

GDP growth rate (IMF 2013 est.): 8.4%

Language: While Portuguese is the country’s official language, you’ll find English spoken widely in southern Mozambique. Outside of the major cities a translator may be required for complex discussions.

Important cities: The bulk of Mozambique’s economic activity is centred on the southern capital of Maputo, with its excellent air links to neighbouring South Africa. The city is the political and economic nerve centre of the country, although northern regions are having an increasingly important impact on the economy. A perfect example is Tete, in the country’s north-west, where a boom in coal and iron ore mining has made the city a popular business travel destination. Likewise Pemba, in the northern coastal province of Cabo Delgado, has long enjoyed a strong tourism industry, but is increasingly becoming an important hub for the mining industry, thanks to offshore gas operations. Beira, 700 kilometres north of Maputo, remains a vital transport hub and is home to the country’s second-largest port, facilitating trade into Malawi and Zimbabwe. Similarly, Nampula is an important trade and transport node for northern Mozambique.

 NITTY GRITTY 

  • Passport-holders of Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, Swaziland, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe do not require a visa to visit Mozambique, and are granted a 30-day entry stamp on arrival. However, Mozambique recently introduced a strict visa regime applicable to all other foreign passport holders, who are now required to obtain a visa in their home country, a move that will complicate travel arrangements for many corporate visitors. Visit embamoc.co.za for more details.
  • Malaria is a major health risk for travellers, and is especially prevalent in the north of the country. Consult a qualified travel doctor for advice and prophylactics at least three weeks before you travel.
  • Local currency is easy to come by, with VISA/Maestro-linked ATMs available in most large cities, where major hotels and restaurants will also usually accept credit cards. US dollars and South African Rands are widely accepted, particularly in the south, and can be easily exchanged at banks for local currency.

AIRLINES AND AIRPORTS

A new international terminal at Maputo International Airport has greatly improved air travel into the capital, with further investment in domestic facilities under way. You’ll also have no trouble flying into Mozambique’s regional centres, although prices can be steep for far-flung destinations dominated by corporate business. In response to the poor condition of much of the country’s road network, a thriving air charter industry exists, particularly in the north of the country.

Airlink

For travellers transiting through southern Africa’s aviation hub at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, this regional carrier is perhaps your best option, with a comprehensive route network serving destinations across Mozambique. From its Johannesburg hub, the airline offers daily flights to Beira, four flights a week direct to Pemba, five flights per week to Tete and six per week to Nampula. A leisure-focused route to Vilanculos is in the pipeline, and the carrier also flies six times per week from Durban to Maputo.

flyairlink.com or +27 11 978 1111

South African Airways, together with its affiliate airline SA Express, currently offers up to six flights every day between Johannesburg and Maputo, providing an excellent range of frequencies for travellers on a tight schedule. SA Express also offers three direct flights per week between Cape Town and Maputo.

flysaa.com or +27 11 978 5313

LAM

Most travellers are pleasantly surprised by the national carrier, Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique. LAM offers a comprehensive network of domestic and regional destinations, with flights from Maputo to Tete, Nampula, Pemba, Beira, Vilanculos and Johannesburg. The airline also flies regularly to Harare, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Luanda.

lam.co.mz/en or + 258 21 468 800

Qatar Airways

The big news on the airline front in 2012. Three times a week Qatar Airways extends its Doha-Johannesburg flights onward to Maputo, offering an effective and affordable option for travellers flying out of Europe or North Africa. “Mozambique is today emerging to be one of the fastest growing economies in the region,” says Qatar Airways’ Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker. “With this in mind, Qatar Airways always looks to open up air travel markets which are underserved.”

qatarairways.com or +27 11 395 9000

Federal Air

Federal Air – previously Pelican Air – no longer flies to Vilanculos from South Africa. The company issued a press release in late November, saying: “It is with regret and extreme sadness that Federal Airlines announce that it has, after long deliberation, decided to cease its Vilanculos scheduled flights.” This move was effective 1 February, with the last operational flight taking place on 31 January. The press release went on to say that, “after 10 years of operation, it has been a difficult decision to make, however with the global economic downturn, the airline has seen a continuing decline in passenger numbers – even over the busiest of seasons.”

GETTING AROUND

For commuting between major cities, air travel is the best choice for corporate travellers, as potholed roads make for long, tiresome journeys. However, a number international car hire brands have offices in Mozambique, and can also arrange a chauffeur driver – recommended – if you absolutely need to hire a car. However, within major cities – especially Maputo – you’ll never struggle to find a taxi. Look for ranks near major hotels, or ask the concierge to call one for you. Remember though that few taxis use their meters, so agree on a fare upfront.

WHERE TO STAY

Radisson Blu Maputo

The latest addition to corporate-friendly hotels in the city, this 154-room hotel opened in February, with a central location, stylish facilities and sea views proving popular with business travellers. A range of restaurants and leisure facilities provide for entertaining clients and relaxing, while meeting and conference rooms can cater for most events. Free high-speed Internet access is a plus.

+258 21 24 24 00

radissonblu.com/hotel-maputo

Polana Serena Hotel

Just a short drive from the city centre, this is still one of the most prestigious addresses in Maputo, and this grand hotel boasts impressive ocean views from both the public areas and the wide range of stylish rooms. The on-site restaurants are ideal for eating in or entertaining clients, while the hotel offers excellent on-site conference facilities. There’s also a 350-seater ballroom for large events.

+258 212 41 700

serenahotels.com

Hotel Cardoso

Part of the continent-wide Lonrho group, the Hotel Cardoso is unbeatable for location, location, location. Just up the hill from the city centre, but set apart from the bustle on a hilltop offering spectacular views out over the bay. The relaxed terrace and restaurant are ideal for winding down at the end of the day, and there’s free Wi-Fi on offer too. Conference and events facilities are available.

+258 21 491071

hotelcardoso.co.mz

Pestana Rovuma

Right in the heart of the city, you’ll find this 4-star business-friendly hotel that offers 119 rooms just a few steps from the downtown business district. Large function facilities can cater for up to 300 delegates at a time, while leisure facilities include a pool, gym and on-site sauna. The flagship Monomotapa restaurant offers Mozambican, Portuguese and international cuisine.

+258 213 05000

pestana.com

Pemba Beach Hotel

A multi-faceted property that appeals to both leisure travellers and corporate visitors, this sprawling estate offers an excellent range of facilities. There’s a range of restaurants, stylish spa and professional watersports centre – useful if you’re travelling with family – while the large conference facilities make it popular for corporate events. With the boom in gas exploration in the region, it’s often fully booked, so reserve a room well in advance.

+258 21 301 618

pembabeachresort.com

The Park Inn by Radisson, Tete

Travellers to Tete can breathe a sigh of relief, now that a decent corporate hotel has finally opened. This 117-room property is located three kilometres from the airport, and close to the main business district of Moatize. There’s free Wi-Fi, an on-site gym and swimming pool, as well as a decent restaurant and conference facilities. Parking and concierge services are also available.

+258 25 22 79 00

parkinn.com/hotel-tete

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