By Lyse Comins
South African tour operators servicing the Mozambican tourism market have expressed concern at the rising cost of visiting the country after a more than 500 percent hike in the cost of single entry holiday visas.
Most tour operators said there was confusion surrounding the astronomical price increase because they had not yet received any official written confirmation from the Mozambican consulate or the Mozambique Tourism Board.
The Mozambican consul in Durban, Joaquim Mussassa, confirmed that the price increase was effective from October 1 and applied to foreign passport holders in "reciprocation" to the visa charges of those countries. He said there was still no charge for South African passport holders visiting the country.
"The idea is not to not allow people to go to Mozambique, but we as Mozambicans had the feeling that if we must pay US$500 (R3 660) to go to the United States then why must Americans pay $25 (R180) when we are a poor country and maybe they are rich," Mussassa said.
He said the new visa fees were applicable whether a visa was obtained at the border or before departure and had been calculated differently for each country depending on its relations with Mozambique.
The consulate's office confirmed that the cost of a visa for a British, German, US and Italian passport holder had increased from US$25 or R170 to R750, and Chinese and Indian passport holders had to pay R500 and R600 respectively.
South African tour operators had mixed feelings about whether the move would deter visitors, but most expressed concern that holidaying in Mozambique was becoming pricey.
Herman Venter, Director of Lileni Island Resort, said "I think it is negative. If you compare it with other countries, it is a little bit excessive. We want to promote Mozambique."
Kerry-Anne Baptiste, owner of tour operator Sportfish Africa, which services mainly the South African market and some international tourists to Mozambique, said tourists were reacting to the rising cost of visiting the country.
However, she said the new visa prices were still cheaper than other countries such as Angola, which charged R1 500 for a holiday visa.
"I don't think the price will be a deterrent if they make it easy to get the visas. The price won't put them off, especially with the weak rand.
"There may be a few whinges from people who have been going to Mozambique for a long time," she said.
However, she said she was concerned that the cost of accommodation in the country was becoming expensive for visitors, who had to pay US$200 (R1500) a night in a four-star hotel on the Bazaruta Archipelago and Quirimbas Archipelago.
* This article was originally published on page 8 of The Mercury on November 09, 2006