MICE in Mozambique | The Planner

At the end of 2023, INATUR invited Meetings on a press tour to Maputo to discover what makes it an enticing destination for MICE events, as well as the latest developments in establishing a new Mozambique Convention Bureau. Here’s what we learned.

Mozambique has long been a popular destination for South Africans. No less than 60% of international tourist arrivals in Mozambique in 2020 were from South Africa (Statista). In addition to its convenient proximity (with a Jo’burg-Maputo flight taking about an hour), it also boasts a rich natural and cultural heritage to dazzle visitors once they have landed. From azure lagoons and sandy white islands to flavourful cuisine with Arabic and Portuguese influences, a vibrant art and music scene, and a history that still bears scars on some of the local architecture – there is much to see and explore.

Maputo today

During our visit to the capital city, it was clear that things are happening. From the abundance of construction sites (a trend which is not limited to Maputo) to ground roots movements such as Bring Back Maputo (using art and education to improve the city), there was an overwhelming sense of opportunity and optimism.

Our trip also coincided with FIKANI, Mozambique’s International Tourism Fair, which took place at Mozambique-China Cultural Centre from 30 November to 3 December 2023. The Minister of Culture and Tourism, Eldevina Materula, gave the welcome address where she shared that tourism grew by 12% in 2022, and that hotel occupancy was, at the time, above 80%. These healthy figures show that the nation’s post-Covid recovery is well underway.
Despite these successes, the Mozambiquan Government and its National Institute of Tourism (INATUR) have recognised the untapped potential of the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) sector, also known as business events, to further boost economic growth and job creation from the tourism industry in the country.

“We have seen an increase in the number of international events hosted in our country, especially in the energy and mining sectors, agriculture, health, and others.”

A land of promise

Speaking to Katia Gaspar, Investment Officer for MICE at INATUR, she says, “The current state of the MICE industry in Mozambique is still nascent but promising. We have seen an increase in the number of international events hosted in our country, especially in the energy and mining sectors, agriculture, health, and others. We have also seen a growth in the number of venues, hotels, and service providers that cater to the MICE market, offering quality facilities and standards.”
Rick Taylor of The Business Tourism Company (TBTC), an African based tourism consultancy specialising in development of the MICE sector throughout Africa, conducted a feasibility study on behalf of INATUR to determine Maputo and Mozambique’s market readiness for MICE. Rick says, “Maputo is market-ready for conferences, with opportunities in the associations segment. There are also some excellent products and experiences for incentive travel programmes in the islands, for which Vilanculos is the gateway.”

Launching Mozambique’s Convention Bureau

Despite its current achievements, more work needs to be done to raise the profile of Mozambique as a MICE destination, and to build more partnerships and collaborations with relevant stakeholders.
Fortunately, these improvements are imminent, says Katia, sharing that the Strategic Plan for Tourism Development in Mozambique 2015-2025 includes creating a Convention Bureau and positioning Mozambique on the international MICE stage, proactivity bidding for international and regional business events, and the incentive travel business market.
Many steps have already been achieved towards this goal, she shares, including the feasibility study mentioned above, as well as mapping out a national MICE strategy sector roadmap including stakeholder mapping, goals and objectives, institutional arrangements, roles and responsibilities, MICE source markets, and financial and implementation plans. Financing from the World Bank to fund implementation of the MICE strategy has also been secured.
Rick explains, “For this final implementation stage, the intention is to establish the Mozambique Convention Bureau as a separate division within INATUR, appoint staff, and then we [TBTC] will deliver capacity building for the Bureau and private sector to increase their competitiveness.”

“There is not yet a firm timeline for this, however we expect it to be launched in 2024,” adds Rick.
If you would like to reach out to INATUR to find out more about hosting your next MICE event in Mozambique, please email info@INATUR.gov.mz. You can also go to www.visitmozambique.gov.mz for more information.

Why MICE in Mozambique?

Mozambique has many advantages as a MICE destination, some of which include:

  • Strategic location in Southern Africa, with easy access to major markets such as South Africa, Tanzania, and Europe (particularly through Portugal which has direct flights 6 days a week), as well as regional integration through SADC. Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airlines connect Mozambique to most of the world, and both international and domestic air access is consistently improving.
  • A diverse economy, with robust sectors in energy, mining, agriculture, health, and fisheries, creating attractive opportunities for trade fairs, exhibitions, and business meetings.
  • A recent audit shows that the country has a good range of purpose-built, market-ready facilities and services that can meet the requirements of an international or regional meeting buyer. There is also a diversity of accommodation options, including more than 2 400 hotel rooms in the 3- to 5-star range in Maputo.
  • Visa exemptions are available for more than 28 countries.
  • Natural beauty – including the nation’s 2 500 km coastline shared with the warm Indian Ocean, and laced with pristine beaches, coral reefs, and islands, all of which are ideal for incentive travel.
  • Unique adventure, eco-, and conservation tourism experiences, due to the nation’s rare wildlife and protected nature reserves such as Gorongosa National Park, Niassa Reserve, and Bazaruto Archipelago. These present appealing add-ons for conferences and meetings, as well as the incentive market.
  • Friendly and hospitable people who are eager to welcome visitors and share their culture, gastronomy, and music.

Maputo hotels

While in Maputo, our tour included several site visits of some of city’s best hotels. All the properties had excellent business facilities, including meeting rooms and, in many cases, large conference venues and ballrooms.
Polana Serena Hotel: The city’s grand dame, this 5-star establishment opened its doors in 1922 and has hosted generations of world leaders, politicians, diplomats, and corporate executives over the years in its opulent meeting spaces. From the ballroom to its sea-facing terraces, it’s equipped to host a range of elegant events of all sizes. Also worth mentioning is the gorgeous Moroccan-styled Maisha Spa for those in need of an indulgent treat.

Hotel Cardoso: Another historic property, Cardoso was built by Commandant Cardoso, captain of the Lourenço Marques port, which is probably why it boasts some of the best sunset views overlooking Maputo Bay and the city. The 100+ year-old property has refurbishment plans in the pipelines for its 130 rooms, plus an exciting variety of conference and meeting rooms to choose from.
Southern Sun Maputo: This beautiful hotel has a prime beachfront location with the beach literally a few steps away from the manicured lawns and infinity pool deck. Known for its excellent service and welcoming ambiance, it is a favoured choice for small to mid-size meetings and special events.

The Radisson Blu Hotel: Situated adjacent to Centro Internacional de Conferências Joaquim Chissano (Joaquim Chissano’s International Conference Centre), the Radisson towers afford enviable sweeping ocean views, while a divisible conference room covering 252 m², three breakout rooms, and a 153 m² pre-function area provide an abundance of space for functions. Refurbishments are also being planned for its 256 rooms and suites.

City Lodge Maputo: I was impressed with this building’s welcoming and contemporary airy style and friendly staff. In addition to 148 rooms there are three spacious boardrooms that are a popular option for business travellers.
Hotel Avenida: This classy 5-star hotel in the heart of the city is conveniently located for business and leisure travellers alike, and it has a comprehensive range of business facilities.

Four days in and around Maputo

Editor of Meetings, Pippa Naude, shares some of the highlights of the four-day press tour of Maputo, hosted by INATUR and organised by local DMC Dana Tours.

Food tour: On arrival, we immediately joined a food tour to welcome us to the city. Mozambique is famed for its fresh seafood (including the – I’ve been told and believe – world’s tastiest prawns) and peri-peri (“spicey-spicey”) grilled chicken, but there is plenty more to sample. I really enjoyed the matapa or matata, a curry made with greens and peanuts and sometimes crab or shrimp, as well as the deep-fried bean fritters. And for those who love chili, fiery peri-peri sauces were a staple at every meal.

On the tour we sampled freshly squeezed sugar cane from a mobile cart, icy 2M beer at a restaurant next to the 93-year-old Cinema Scala, and a tasting menu at FEIMA, a laid-back and lush garden full of eateries and local artisans selling their wares. We capped it all off at Magumba market on Maputo’s waterfront. Here shipping containers have been repurposed as kitchens, covered in vibrant scenes by Mozambiquan artists, and local women have perfected the art of flame grilled chicken.
Historic tour: We visited several landmark buildings, including the Central Railway Station which was constructed from 1908 to 1916 in the Beaux-Arts style, and which has been described as the most beautiful terminus in Africa. The country’s past of war, espionage, and counter espionage, means many of the buildings also have haunting stories attached to them.

Mafalala tour: Mafalala is one of the city’s oldest townships, made famous by the many great talents it has produced – including the writer José Craveirinha and football legend Eusébio da Silva Ferreir. It also played a significant role in the nation’s resistance under Portuguese rule, and its rich history and culture are captured in several large and striking graffiti murals that brightly decorate the walls and walkways. A guided walking tour gave us a different perspective of life in Maputo, as well as the resilience of the people living here.

Macaneta Beach: On our final day we took an hours’ drive north to Macaneta Beach, a wild stretch of golden sand alongside a lagoon where a flock of flamingos flew lazily by. Mozambican environmentalist Carlos Serra’s Glass House is here, a building made entirely from glass waste reclaimed from the ocean, where it serves as a visual testament to both the problem of waste and a possible solution for it. The building includes a library where a literacy programme is run for the local fishermen, many of whom left school at a young age to enter the fishing trade.