Andrew Hebeler '85: Revitalizing Tourism In Mozambique
Whenever he can, Andrew Hebeler finds time for flying high over the Mozambique Channel, body harnessed to the tail of a taut kite. Hebeler, a self-described kitesurfing addict, first took up the sport in 2006, when he began working to promote natural resource conservation and tourism in Mozambique. If the country isn’t yet synonymous with “vacation destination,” maybe it should be. “It has incredible beaches, bush, game parks,” says Hebeler, who lives with his wife and three children in Maputo. “If you’re a beach bum like me, this is paradise.”
Forty years ago, Hebeler’s assertion might have seemed commonplace. Once a hot spot for tourists, the pre-independence country lured visitors with 1500 miles of coast (more than twice the length of California’s coastline) and the spectacularly diverse Gorongosa National Park. But years of civil war following Communist takeover ravished the country’s reputation and assets; today its tourism industry is smaller than that of any adjacent country with the exception of Malawi.
Thanks in part to organizations such the U.S. Agency for International Development, for which Hebeler has worked directly and as a consultant, the natural resources for which Mozambique was once known are staging a comeback. Hebeler takes pride in his recent work helping to rebuild Gorongosa National Park, and to restore its badly depleted wildlife population. He also helped create an aquatic reserve on Lake Niassa.
“I’ve always had a strong interest in science and the outdoors,” says Hebeler. “I attribute that to Peter Monroe, a very good friend and teacher. He made science so interesting. Potomac was fantastic because of the nature trails, the places you could actually go. [Science] was real for us.”
Hebeler’s experience promoting Mozambique’s tourism industry gives him special insight into how tourism in places such as Egypt might suffer as a result of instability. He points to Kenya as a model for recovery: although violence and unrest significantly impacted tourism in 2007, the industry rebounded within just a few years.
Today Hebeler travels around the continent working for Metrica, which provides business infrastructure support services to corporate and government clients. This work has given him the chance to learn firsthand what challenges small and mid-sized African businesses face. “The obstacles in many countries are considerable, but the number of opportunities for those who are persistent is also great. I think overall that the desire of ordinary people to improve their lives and create opportunities will have the greatest development impact. It’s impressive to see the lengths to which some post-conflict countries like Mozambique and Rwanda have gone in putting the past behind them and working toward stability and growth.”
“I’ve always had a strong interest in science and the outdoors. I attribute that to Peter Monroe, a very good friend and teacher. He made science so interesting. Potomac was fantastic because of the nature trails, the places you could actually go. [Science] was real for us.”—Andrew Hebeler '85, natural resource conservationist