POTENTIALLY BIG CHEESE

Mozambique 2015 | TOURISM | FOCUS: MICE TOURISM

With MICE tourism accounting for the bulk of Mozambique's tourist arrivals, PowerPoint and coffee breaks have become a vital contributor to sector development.

Despite its proximity to one of the world's premium tourism destinations, South Africa, Mozambique remains in the process of developing its tourism offering. And having adopted a value chain approach to maximize its returns, MICE Tourism (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions), is today a growing business. A cornucopia of wildlife and 2,700km of coastline doesn't hurt the proposition either.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) report Global Report on the Meetings Industry (2014) underlined the fundamentally significant advantages for a nation establishing itself as a MICE destination. Accordingly, meetings in themselves represent a prime business opportunity with a knock-on effect on other local businesses.

MICE tourism, then, promotes investment, trade, communications, and technology, also bringing education and professional development to the local community, creating employment and retaining the workforce. Moreover, as a “clean” industry it fosters values of environmental sustainability and quality, even though, and perhaps because MICE tourists are at the high end of the visitor spectrum. And as well as building the local community profile, they disseminate information about the host nation abroad.

Quessanias J. Matsombe, President of Federaçao Moçambicana de Turismo e Hotelaria (FEMOTUR) identifies the need to narrow down the focus, despite the wider tourism potential the nation offers in order to establish a robust base. “While the potential is there we need to select two or four representative potential tourism destinations and work to promote those as has been done elsewhere, say, with Cancún in Mexico, or Varadero in Cuba. At the moment, we are still failing to do this, and are underselling ourselves by attempting to market the entire country as a whole.

USAID report Tourism Competitiveness In Light Of a Natural Resource Boom (2014) identifies the corporate travel value chain as underpinning the Mozambican tourism industry, “…in terms of visitor numbers, commercial volume and potential growth. The main destination for business and corporate travel is Maputo, with Pemba, Tete and Beira emerging as important secondary centers.” Yet in evaluating this segment's value chain the report identifies certain obstacles to development. One in particular is that hotels and other tourism facilities often face a prohibitively high transaction cost when importing requisite goods, to which may be added high taxation, and a dearth of, “…reliable local suppliers, and high variability in import processing and delivery times [while] hotels also report very high costs of self-generated electricity, poor quality water, and difficulty with documenting non-taxable expenses. Put together, these factors undermine operational competitiveness of hotels in Maputo.”

ENTER THE DRAGON

The abovementioned difficulties notwithstanding, conference centers have been erected to capitalize on team-building jaunts from South African businesses. The Joaquim Chissano International Conference Centre (JCICC) is located on the coast in Maputo City. Among its amenities is its 1,000 capacity Grand Plenary Hall. It also offers a prime stepping stone for pre- and post-conference tours. Chinese investors have been keen to tap into Mozambique's budding economy, building a 2,000 capacity multifunctional conference center. Chinese group Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Corp (AFECC) is set to add a landmark component to the country's tourism infrastructure on an estimated investment of $250 million, in a public-private partnership (PPP) funded by Chinese investors. The scheme includes a five-star hotel with 290 rooms, and, significantly, a 2,000 capacity conference center and function room set for completion in 2015. Moreover, it is adjacent to the existing Joaquim Chissano International Conference Centre, in the capital city of Maputo. This will be the group's 3rd hotel in Mozambique.

The final word goes to Noor Momade, the owner of Cotur, who informed TBY that the fact that most events in Maputo are conferences, meetings, and business tourism accounts for the 95% capacity booking level of most hotels, dominating the sector. And with a growing range of facilities on offer to the business traveler, and a stepped-up aviation sector, Mozambique stands over time to attract further business from Durban, and further afield.