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The Mauritian Tourism Industry – A Vulnerable Sector! – September 2012

September 12, 2012

Earmarked by the government as “the third pillar of the economy” after the E.P.Z. manufacturing sector and Agriculture, The tourism Industry contributes significantly to our gross domestic product, making up around 11% and has been a key factor in the overall development of Mauritius.

Mauritius has long been seen as a popular holiday destination, famous for its white beaches, blue lagoons and luxury spas catering primarily to Europeans, who still account for about 67% tourists arrival. But with many west European countries in recession, a decline of 6 percent in European tourists to 279,643 —still around two-thirds of arrivals — was partly offset by an increase of 16.7 percent in visitor numbers from Asia to 51,353, Statistics Mauritius said.

Mauritius is making considerable efforts to diversify into new markets. “Our tourist industry is extremely eurocentric and, given what’s happening in Europe, we are suffering big-time,” says Gilbert Espitalier- Noël, director of Espitalier Noël Ltd (ENL), a dynamic business group in Mauritius. So after seeing regional neighbours such as the Maldives attracting visitors from China, Mauritius is belatedly trying to do the same. The industry is also setting its sights on other markets, including Russia and India.

Government expects tourist arrivals to grow 1.6 percent to 980,000 this year while the Bank of Mauritius expects tourism earnings for the year to climb from 42.8 billion to 43.2 billion Mauritius rupees thanks to higher arrivals. However, many hoteliers are complaining that a shortage of flights, including those offered by the loss making national carrier Air Mauritius, is hampering the industry. They are pressing for more connections to China and Russia in particular, saying that government needs to make Mauritius more accessible by air.

For the industry to remain sustainable in today’s challenging climate, operators need to engage in web-based digital marketing to tap new markets, hotels need to redefine the ways they conduct business and the Government should be aware that diversification cannot happen without new aerial routes or adopting an ‘open air’ policy. That is beginning to happen. This month, the airline joined Mauritian hoteliers on a trip to China aimed at ensuring enough commitments from tour operators to fill more flights Financial Times concluded in a recent analysis of the Mauritian tourist industry.

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