updated 11/10/2006 12:32:36 PM ET 2006-11-10T17:32:36

Angola aims to boost tourism numbers significantly over the next three years by revamping infrastructure battered by decades of civil war, Minister of Tourism Eduardo Chingunji said on Friday.

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Chingunji told Reuters plans involve building airports, hotels and roads; improving electricity and water supplies and modernizing the country’s health services.

The Southern African nation, Sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest oil exporter after Nigeria, is witnessing a boom in business after 27 years of civil war that ended in 2002.

“Since the end of the war there has been an increase of almost 80 percent in international arrivals. We now have more than 204,000 foreigners arriving each year,” Chingunji said.

“But when we talk about tourists in Angola, these are mostly business tourists. We’re not at the point where we can talk of traditional tourists. We need to resolve the problems of infrastructure to accommodate them,” he said.

With long stretches of sandy beaches on its Atlantic coast, plenty of wildlife and a cooler climate in the interior, Angola was an attractive destination for European tourists, mostly from Portugal, during Portuguese colonial rule.

But the start of civil war, which coincided with independence in 1975, put an end to the once booming sector.

No rooms
Visitors to Angola now regularly complain about the lack of accommodation and Chingunji said the occupancy rate of hotels in the capital Luanda averaged 97 percent all year round.

“About 3,000 to 3,500 rooms — that’s the deficit we have in order to meet the demand in Luanda,” he said.

“...We are encouraging Angolan investors to build hotel infrastructure that really caters for traditional tourists. We need it throughout the country,” he said.

Projects included a 36-floor hotel in Luanda to be built by Angolan state insurance company AAA, which has plans for a total of 21 hotels across the country. Private Angolan group Sistec had plans to build mid-range hotels in at least five provinces.

Foreign companies including France’s Accor and South Africa’s Southern Sun had also expressed an interest in coming into Angola to manage hotels, a move Chingunji saw as a sign of confidence in the country’s post-war growth.

Projects to offer more tourists attractions were also afoot, including a transborder park, fishing lodges, and casinos.

Angola still has to address a nagging complaint by visitors — the bureaucratic hassles of obtaining visas. High prices for everything from restaurants to taxis may also deter tourists.

Chingunji said the government was introducing new legislation to simplify the process for bona fide tourists. “...Eventually people will be able to come to Angola on a 30-day visa as a tourist, ” he said.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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