Can Maputo’s vibrant tourism sector, leverage local economic development?

    In recent years Maputo city has shown a strong capacity to reaffirm its positioning in the tourism sector. This fact can be observed in the continue increasing of tourism demand and the growing spread and reform of bars, restaurants, different types of accommodation, cultural entertainment events and other tourism related activities. This process of innovation and repositioning of current tourism offer may be seen in particular in three main localized tourism areas: Julius Nyerere, Costa do Sol and Cidade Baixa. While visiting Maputo, it is possible to perceive that the city is turning into a multicultural capital due to the strong presence of international cooperation agencies, NGO´s and important global industries that have their head offices in Maputo. On the other end Maputo being the capital o Mozambique has as its citizens, representations of the majority of national cultures and ethnic groups contributing for a very diverse composition of resident communities. Maputo tourism sector, is a strong segment of overall economic activity and takes an important role in national tourism development. Although there is a lack on technical studies in order to perceived it's direct impact on the local economy it is possible to perceive the direct links between tourism and other key activities that enhance economic development opportunities in the formal & informal sectors such as Handicraft Production and Sales, Food & Beverages, Entertainment in general and even to the currently increase of the Leisure Tourism segment based on the attractions close to the town. Backed on this positive development, Maputo is receiving investments in revitalization and new developments on high and middle end accommodations. This is the case of the Polana Serena Hotel, Hotel Cardoso, Hotel Indi Village currently under reform and other new investments such as Afrin Hotel, Hotel Vip Prestige, among others. According to the Tourism Ministry, between 2008 and 2009, US $40 million dollars are being invested in the tourism sector in Maputo city. According to the projects presented by investors, these investments will generate over 3.240 direct jobs and 9.720 indirect jobs at local level. At the same time, important tourism associated activities are being objective of further support, by government and development institutions (local & international). For instance, in the cultural sector it is possible to identify consistent initiatives that result from the efforts of various private and public sector promoters like CEDARTE, ANARTE, O Cantinho dos Artesãos and more recently the UNESCO Creative Industries Program. In the field of vocational skills training, SNV is taking a strong leadership while providing advise to local institutions responsible to develop training solutions. In the other end, a important initiative in vocational skills training in Maputo will be held in the next months with the cooperation of the Brazilian government in particular with SENAC, a leading training organization in the field of tourism and hospitality. Maputo's tourism development cycle should be stimulated in order to minimize and overcome the global financial crisis impacts and take to advantage of current situation. In these sense, many challenges come ahead to capitalize current social and political stability; and the innovative, vibrant business environment that the strong presence of international workers bring in to the city and the exceptional positioning of the city in terms of logistics and distance to regional main attractions. Regarding the challenges ahead, many questions rise, in order to identify priorities intervention in tourism key related activities, especially those that may result in strong impact for the benefit of the poor. This scenario brings into consideration important questions that should be objective of reflection of both local and national government and that may help to understand appropriate and effective ways of intervention from the economic policy perspective. First we have to think weather to approach the tourism economy from the offer perspective or through the lens of a territorial/destination perspective. While many economists still defend the idea of an offer related approach for economic policy interventions, as long as tourism economy consolidates, it has been more admitted that the offer side is a narrow perspective that does not bring into consideration the transversal nature of the tourism economy, a main issue when planning and implementing effective tourism policy. In the other hand, when understanding and focusing tourism policy through a territorial perspective, it is possible to perceive a wider combination of elements (economic and non economic) to be considered while planning economic policy interventions. In this sense a territorial approach to tourism development not only should include the classic tourism supply chain organizations (hotels, transports, travel agencies, bar & restaurants) but still, integrate other important and active organizations (public/private & formal/informal) and social, cultural, & environmental conditions that have important influence on the quality of public space and consequently in positive business conditions that may act directly in the potential to increase job and income opportunities. This understanding of tourism development takes us to another step in the analysis on what and how a dynamic economic policy could contribute to take advantage of the potential for Maputo's creative positioning in the tourism sector. Since the mid 70´s many models for intervention have been develop and used in develop countries in order to address tourism planning and economic policies. Today it is almost a general consensus that tourism development should be planed through a systemic or holistic approach, where there is by concept, a natural interdependence between economic and non-economic activities such as infrastructure, public services and environmental quality, social stability & private sector development within a frame of human capital development. Having this into consideration it seems necessary that in order to establish an effective normative framework for tourism development in Maputo, it will be important to have in mind the need to contribute for the growth of tourism activities that have a crucial role in stimulation of the different supply chains as well as to promote local assets/attractions (cultural, environmental & geographical) in order to promote new business developments (formal & informal) that may introduce innovation in the overall tourism experience offered by the city as a tourism destination. Maputo city policy makers need to address a basic but important Tourism Plan, where local micro-clusters and supply chains in different stages of development are identified, analyzed and put in order of priority for further incentives. It would be important to follow this mapping of Maputo's tourism micro-clusters with economic policy incentives for investments that address general tourism thematic proposals, based on ethic and strategic criteria's, such as the UNWTO 7 Pro-poor Mechanisms, and other consolidated sustainable tourism indicators. These ideas take us to the conclusion that Maputo's vibrant tourism sector, if understood in a wider and inclusive perspective could be a relevant activity to induce sustainable economic development at local level, taking advantage of its position as a key gateway destination through which flows tourism to the rest of the country. In order to enhance this process SNV is working next to government (national and local) and partners offering advisory services that are definitely contributing to increase tourism capacity to promote equitable and sustainable economic development in Maputo. SNV´s commitment to contribute with further pro-poor development will be briefly strength with an important Tourism Value Chain Study that is, currently under planning and that will count with the participation of important key partners form government, private sector, and educational institutions. But further achieves may only be reach if tight partnerships and dialogue are built among private sector, civil society and government in order to address common issues with synergy and commitment. Maputo has all ingredients to promote an inclusive tourism development model, based on a multi-cultural and multi-attractions destination approach.