updated 12/19/2006 1:23:44 PM ET 2006-12-19T18:23:44

Mozambique expects to earn more than $150 million from tourism in 2007 and to double that in four years as more Europeans discover sand and sun in an African nation once known for civil war, an official said on Tuesday.

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National Director of Tourism Albino Mahumana said revenue from international tourists would rise to around $144 million dollars this year from $108 million in 2005, boosting a sector that employs about 35,000 people.

“We are set to collect $157 million of tourism revenues next year and we are working on the quality of services and infrastructure development to achieve that,” he told Reuters in an interview.

“In 2000, the bulk of tourists came from (neighboring) Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe coming by road, but now we have huge numbers from Europe, particularly Italy and Germany,” Mahumana added.

Mozambique is endowed with spectacular beaches and islands along its 1,616 miles Indian Ocean coastline and Mahumana said the prevailing political peace and stability after a ravaging 16-year civil war which ended in 1992 also provided a welcoming environment for investment in tourism.

A planned multi-billion dollar government project at Bazaruto Island would be one of the country’s tourist draw cards ahead of the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament in neighboring South Africa, which has the entire region expecting a flood of visitors.

“We are looking at doubling next year’s revenue predictions in four years, and for that to happen the government will promote the country’s potential and attract investors,” Mahumana said, citing a package of special incentives for private investors to boost the sector.

“In January next year we will start a full-scale grading system to make sure all hotels and establishments meet the recommended international standards,” he added.

The bulk of Mozambique’s infrastructure including roads was wrecked, first by civil war and later by a series of cyclones, making overland travel difficult and leaving the northern part of the country hard to reach.

But Mozambique now boasts one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, and investment, particularly from South Africa, is flowing into hotels and resorts designed to rival more established destinations in Kenya and Tanzania.

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