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TRAVEL ADVISORY

Tourism in Southern Africa Hard Hit by Flooding

March 26, 2000|EDWARD WRIGHT | Edward Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times. His column appears monthly

Africa

Southern Africa: Following disastrous flooding in south and central Mozambique, the State Department has advised Americans to delay travel to that country. The caution, effective for the next two months, is presented as a "public announcement" rather than a full-blown travel warning, but it cautions that many roads and bridges are impassable and that the main north-south highway is cut off in many places. City services are relatively normal in Maputo, the capital, but overland travel to the rest of the country is extremely difficult. The World Health Organization notes that cholera is a threat.

The flooding, which also devastated parts of South Africa, Botswana and the island of Madagascar, has cut heavily into the region's tourism industry. South Africa has been especially hard hit in the wildlife and eco-tourism market. Two weeks ago, national parks officials were reporting hundreds of cancellations, most of them for Kruger National Park.

Elsewhere around the continent, some security incidents of interest to travelers:

Kenya: A Dutch tourist was shot to death last month on a main street in Nairobi as he walked toward his hotel in the evening. Most embassies warn their citizens not to be on the capital's streets after dark.

Nigeria: Because of recent Muslim-Christian conflicts, the State Department has warned Americans to "use extreme caution" when traveling around the southern cities of Aba, Onitsha and Port Harcourt and the north-central city of Kaduna. The alert is in effect until June 2.

Europe

Spain: Since ending a 14-month cease-fire in December, the Basque separatist group ETA has instigated three terrorist attacks that left three people dead. The first, a car bombing in January, killed an army colonel in Madrid. Last month, a leading Socialist politician and his bodyguard were killed by a car bomb in the Basque city of Vitoria in northern Spain. Earlier this month, a car bomb was detonated near a Civil Guard barracks in the Basque city of San Sebastian, injuring at least seven people. ETA has been blamed for about 800 deaths in its fight for Basque independence. No foreigners have been injured by the recent bombings, but in past years ETA has targeted tourist sites in an attempt to destabilize the government by scaring off tourists.

Asia

Indonesia: Raging fires and violence continue to plague parts of this sprawling archipelago:

* Smoke from fires used to clear land has blanketed much of western Borneo, leading to dangerously high levels of air pollution. By contrast, the smoke-fouled air of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, along with that of nearby Singapore and Malaysia, has begun to clear.

* Hundreds of Muslim demonstrators stoned a church in a tourist city last month and called for a holy war to protest sectarian violence in eastern Indonesia. The incident occurred in Yogyakarta on the main island of Java, in an area of ancient shrines and monuments.

* Two months after rioting swept Lombok, the popular tourist island's hotels are still struggling with near-zero occupancy.

Central America

Costa Rica: The slayings of two young American women appeared to chill tourism on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast, with hotels in the region reporting some cancellations. The two 19-year-olds were found shot to death two weeks ago near the beach town of Cahuita, about 90 miles east of San Jose. One was a student at Ohio's Antioch College who was working on a school photography project, and the other was a former Antioch student who was visiting her. Costa Rica, a magnet for U.S. tourists and retirees, has long had a reputation for relative safety and stability in a volatile region. But the State Department's latest consular information sheet on the country mentions that crime, some of it directed against tourists, is increasing. The department notes that American women have been victims of sexual assaults at beach resorts on both coasts and in San Jose. Crime is most common in downtown San Jose, at beaches, at the airport and bus stations and in the national parks.

Briefly . . .

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