Cape Verde and Tourism


Politics and Economy

The Cape Verde Islands were uninhabited when discovered by the Portuguese in 1460. Over the centuries, African blood (originally brought in under slavery) mixed with the blood of the Portuguese, and to a lesser extent with English and French, to create a Cape Verdean people. In 1975, after more than five hundred years of union, the Cape Verdean people were given Independence from Portugal. However, government control then passed to the 'Partido Africano de Independencia de Cabo Verde’ (PAICV) under a single-party, Leftist regime, and remained so for the next sixteen years up until 1991, when the newly-formed political party, the 'Movimento para a Democracia' (MPD), won the first multiparty democratic national election. A further democratic election in 1996 returned the MPD to power, however, in 2001, a much-transformed PAICV was elected back into government after 10 years in Opposition. The next national election is due in 2006.

Cape Verde is a socially and politically stable country with all political parties (whether in Government or in Opposition) supporting macroeconomic and reform policies recommended by the IMF and the World Bank. Thus, policies are followed to take control of public spending, reduce domestic debt, privatise parastatal companies and improve social services. All political parties are very keen to attract foreign private investment, particularly into the tourism, light-manufacturing, transhipment and fishing sectors. More than this, since 1998, the exchange value of the Cape Verde Escudo has been pegged, firstly to the Portuguese Escudo and subsequently, tacitly, to the Euro ( 1Euro = 110.265CVEsc ) therefore requiring the following of Eurozone’s macroeconomic criteria. Consequently, over the last 5 years, annual inflation has been contained between 3% and 4% and the budget deficit held to between 2% and 3% with an average growth in real GDP of around 6% per year. GDP per capita is approximately US$1,400 with a population inhabiting the Islands of about 450,000.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, in 2003, Cape Verde is a middle-income country, with the fourth highest Human Development Index (which takes into account various factors, such as GDP per capita, life expectancy, adult literacy, education etc) of all African nations behind only the Seychelles, Mauritius and Tunisia.

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Foreign investment

Cape Verde's doors are open to private foreign investment as a means to create a sustainable growing economy through job creation and capital investment and thereafter the collection of tax revenues. Legislation to entice external private investment into Cape Verde was introduced in 1989. The 'Lei de Investimento Externo' ('External Investment Law') introduced in 1993 broadened and enhanced the existing legislation to attract private foreign investment by non-Cape Verdean nationals and includes a 5-year initial tax holiday and a subsequent tax reduction by 50% on corporate tax (currently 30%) for the following 10 years. These incentives can be extended indefinitely, so long as reinvestment is made. Regarding tourism investment, an exemption is granted on import duties for materials necessary for construction and installation of projects. All net revenues are guaranteed transference out of Cape Verde in full and foreign currency bank accounts are available. Any dispute between the Government and foreign investors can be decided upon by a sole-arbitrator appointed by the 'Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes' in Washington DC. Private foreign investors are entitled to residency in Cape Verde if they employ more than 13 nationals or invest more than US$35,000. PROMEX' - the 'Center for the Promotion of Tourism, Investment and Exports' is a government agency that is officially the front desk for potential investors; the agency also approves projects and arranges further approval needed from the Government.

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National Development Plan

The government is implementing a whole series of programmes through its fifth National Development Plan (NDP - 2001-2005) supported by Cape Verde's international aid donors to improve the infrastructures fundamental to the development of the archipelago into a quality tourism destination. Programmes under the NDP in areas such as transportation (air, maritime, inter-island and road transportation), communication, banking, health provision, electricity, water and sanitation provision and professional training are included under the NDP. The creation of jobs is a primary concern and the establishment of a flourishing tourism industry is seen as one of the key areas for development, besides light-manufacturing, transhipment and fishing for the expansion of export earnings. Tourism is now one of the key industry sectors targeted by the government in its strategy for economic development.

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Tourism

The transformation of Cape Verde into a quality tourism destination taking advantage of its year-round warm and sunny climate, its relative proximity to the European market, spectacular mountainous scenery and white sandy beaches (Santiago Island combines all of these) and population well known for its hospitality is already underway. The inadequate supply of suitable international quality hotel accommodation to meet ever-growing demand is seen as the primary factor holding down the overall level of tourist visitors. Hotels of international tourism standard on Sal, Santiago, Boa Vista and S.Vicente have attained high average annual occupancy rates (in some cases, particularly on Sal and Santiago these have been in excess of 80%) over the last few years.

In 2000 there were 1,070 rooms with 2,208 beds available in 3-Star and above hotels on the referred four islands. Sal provides 59% of such rooms, Santiago 18%, Boa Vista 11% and S.Vicente 11%. The number of foreign tourists visiting Cape Verde each year who stay in hotels has increased more or less in step with the extra provision of hotel rooms. Before 1990, the amount of genuine tourists visiting Cape Verde was almost negligible; most visitors from abroad, even with foreign passports, were Cape Verdean ex-pats or otherwise aid workers, diplomats and consultants. There were 48,000 foreign tourists who stayed in hotels in Cape Verde in 1997; 55,000 in 1998; 68,000 in 1999; 115,000 in 2000 and in 2001 there were 135,000. During 2001, Italian tourists comprised about one-third of foreign visitors, Portuguese about 27%, German about 13% and French about 8.5%, the remainder was mainly came from Spain (3%), South Africa(2.5%), the Benelux countries (2%) and the USA (1.7%). Besides foreign tourists, some 30,000 Cape Verdean ex-pats visited their families and friends on the Islands during 2001. Over the next few years the number of German, Spanish and Italian tourists is expected to increase dramatically with the development of resorts by TUI, Rui Hotels and Italian groups.

In July 2003, the Government announced that the new Praia international airport should be operational by the end of April 2004. This will open a second gateway to direct flights from Europe accommodating Airbus-320 and Boeing 757 sized aircraft. A German company has announced that it plans to develop a 150 room 5-Star hotel in the centre of Praia and also investors from the Canary Islands have plans to develop a 135 room commercial hotel, also inside of Praia.

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Flights

The Cape Verde Islands comprise the nearest islands to Europe within the tropics. Flight-times to Cape Verde are therefore comparatively short compared to other island destinations within the tropics such as in the Caribbean or the Seychelles which one could argue take about twice as long to fly to. The capital, Praia, on Santiago Island is around 1,600 km (1000 miles) south of the Canary Islands and 800 km (500 miles) south of the Tropic of Cancer. Existing scheduled flights to Sal Island take five-and-a-half hours from Paris and 6 hours from Amsterdam, Milan, Munich and Rome. From Lisbon, flights are three-and-a-half hours and from Las Palmas (Canaries) about one-and-three-quarter hours.~

TACV (Cabo Verde Airlines) operates 4 flights per week to Lisbon as well as weekly flights to Amsterdam (including Las Palmas), Boston, Fortaleza (Brazil), Paris and Milan (including Bergamo, Italy). TACV also operates flights to Dakar (Senegal), Banjul (The Gambia) and Bissau (Guinea-Bissau). TAP-Air Portugal also operates 4 flights a week from Lisbon. Both TACV and TAP have announced that they intend to operate flights from Praia to Lisbon as soon as the new Praia airport is open. An open skies policy will open the way from Autumn 2003 for charter flights to operate to Cape Verde, thus reducing ticket prices. South African Airways use Cape Verde as a stop-over for its flights between Johannesburg/Cape Town and New-York.

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Climate

The islands of Cape Verde have slightly differing climates according to their terrain and location. In the mountainous interior of Santiago with peaks over 1300 metres the climate has subtle seasonal changes with limited rainfall between August and October, although sunshine levels remain high all year round. Agriculture is possible in the interior's valleys where rainwater is trapped on manmade terraces creating a verdant landscape. The flatter coastal terrain is more arid due to its exposure to the warm and dry winds prevailing from the Sahara although it is richly fertile when irrigated. Bananas, sugar cane, date and coconut palms flourish in several plantations along the north east coast of Santiago Island. Daily hours of sunshine vary from 10-12 for most of the year to 7 between August and October. Temperature generally varies between 22C and 27C all year round with seawater surface temperature between 21C and 26C. Total precipitation averages around 260mm (10 inches) per year of which over 90% falls between August and October. Moderately high relative humidity (70%) during the rainy season combined with a small rise in air temperature to between 24C and 29C is tempered by cooling sea breezes. Wind speed averages around 13 knots, dropping to 9 knots in the summer.
The Canary Islands, by contrast to the climate of Cape Verde, provide daily sunshine hours of between 6 in the winter and 11 in the summer. Temperature averages between 16C and 22C in the winter and 19C and 25C in the summer. The rather cold local ocean current, the Canaries Current, does not provide as pleasant bathing conditions in the Canaries as in the Cape Verde Islands. In the Canary Islands annual average precipitation totals 278mm (11 inches), but is spread more evenly between September and May with, on average, 6 days per month experiencing rainfall. To conclude, the climate of Cape Verde is more suited to beach and water tourism, especially in the winter, than the already successful Canary Islands. The likelihood of a hurricane striking the Cape Verde Islands is very remote, unlike the Caribbean. Hurricanes start small in the Gulf of Guinea near the equator and sweep westwards across the Atlantic well to the south of Cape Verde and by the time they reach the Caribbean are able to cause severe damage.

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Books

"Cape Verde Islands - The Bradt Travel Guide" " is undoubtedly the current best source for all-round information about the Cape Verde Islands and answers many queries on how, when, where and what to do when you get there. Aisling Irwin, a journalist on the Daily Telegraph, and her husband, Colum Wilson, have produced a work that should accompany all those interested in Cape Verde. Available in all good book shops. Price £12.95 - Second edition released in October 2001. ISBN 1-84162-038-6. Published in the UK by Bradt Publications and in the USA by The Globe Pequot Press Inc, Connecticut. You can order a copy through www.bradt-travelguides.com

"Africa South of the Sahara" -- revised, updated and published annually by Europa Publications Ltd, London. This publication contains detailed information on each country within sub-Saharan Africa. Contains detailed sections on physical and social geography, recent history and economy of Cape Verde. Also statistical information and a directory of government ministries, embassies, media organisations, banks, commerce, transport and tourism. Available in selected public libraries. Latest edition (31st - 2002) released in November 2001.

"The Economist Intelligence Unit" is a member of The Economist Group, London, and publishes quarterly reports and annual profiles for every country in the world. Quarterly reports contain up to date information on recent political and economic issues, business developments, government regulations and quarterly economic statistical updates. Quarterly and annual updates on Cape Verde are included with Congo, S.Tomé & Príncipe and Guinea-Bissau. Available in selected public libraries. Also, try www.eiu.com

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Copyright 2001 [J.Grepne]. All rights reserved.
Updated: 11/08/2003