Selling slice of paradise

PEMBA - Mozambique's proximity to South Africa and lower crime rate makes it a perfect staging ground for soccer teams and their fans during the 2010 World Cup, a senior Mozambican official said on Monday.

PEMBA - Mozambique's proximity to South Africa and lower crime rate makes it a perfect staging ground for soccer teams and their fans during the 2010 World Cup, a senior Mozambican official said on Monday.

Deputy minister of tourism Rosario Mualeia said the impoverished southern African nation hoped to lure to its shores at least 150000 tourists, or about one-third of those expected to visit host nation South Africa during the World Cup.

Mozambique, which is known for its pristine sandy beaches and quaint colonial cities, is also negotiating to host training and base camps for some of the teams that will qualify for the finals.

"We are near to South Africa and the crime rate in Mozambique is not as high as the host nation," Mualeia said.

"Many fans would be prefer to be in a quiet place and Mozambique has the environment for that." Unlike South Africa, which is grappling with one of the world's highest levels of violent crime, Mozambique is generally seen as a safe tourist destination in Africa, with attacks on foreigners a rare occurrence.

The Mozambican government plans to spend at least $600 million on hotels, casinos and other leisure facilities as part of an effort to capitalise on the tourism boom expected during the one-month World Cup, which begins on June 11, 2010.

Though one of the world's poorest countries, Mozambique is experiencing an economic boom, and tourism revenues have provided crucial foreign exchange for the government's public works programmes.

The bulk of Mozambique's infrastructure, particularly its roads and ports, were destroyed during a 17-year civil war that ended in 1992.

"We expect to earn more than $150 million from tourism this year and to double that in four years as more Europeans discover sand and sun in Mozambique," Mualeia said. - Reuters

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