Mauritius

1585

It’s difficult to look past the picture-perfect beaches, stunning climate and ideal swimming and water sport conditions, when assessing just what makes Mauritius the holiday destination it is. But those who trade in the currency of Mauritius as their primary product believe there’s more to the country than just meets the eye.

“It’s much more than a beach destination,” says Dr Karl Mootoosamy, Director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority. “It offers a total tourism experience, with a wide portfolio of product offering, appealing to different segments of the market, from families to couples, honeymooners, seniors, adventurer seekers and corporates (MICE). Mauritius is a brand with strong human, emotional, cultural and historical dimensions.”

“Mauritius is an exotic island just four hours away from South Africa,” says Carla da Silva, Air Mauritius Regional Manager for Southern Africa & Latin America. “It’s malaria-free, no visas are required, it’s a safe destination and the country is politically stable. The warmth and hospitality is definitely another huge factor, as the country embraces tourism at every level, whilst the weather is beautiful all year round.”

Club Med has three resorts in Mauritius and 14 in total across Africa, including properties in Egypt, Senegal, Morocco and Tunisia, and will soon be opening its newest property in Belek, Turkey. Internet Sales and Marketing Manager, David Randall says: “There are many beautiful and exotic destinations close to South Africa, but visa and malaria issues are important when considering travel time. For Mauritius, quality and range of product, in conjunction with great service levels, make it an ideal destination for both MICE and leisure travellers.”

Interesting that Randall identifies South Africa, but not surprising, as Mauritius has traditionally drawn heavily on the tourism support it receives from South Africa. That being said, Club Med also receives a lot of business from Namibia and according to Randall, is also “finding more and more trade and online enquiries from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and DRC, especially from expats.”   

Matthew Fubbs is the Sales Director at The Holiday Factory – a South African-based tour operator – and they too have seen a change in the numbers.

“Leisure travel from Europe is not what it used to be and this is evident in the arrival numbers for 2012,” says Fubbs. “South Africa was always in the top five, but this year to date it is currently sitting in third place, in terms of providers of travellers to the Island. That being said, the outstanding factor to the success of Mauritius in the South African market is the value for money that the destination offers to the average South African. If you combine the cost versus the product and destination offering, then often it beats the leisure options offered for travel within South Africa itself.”

But times appear to be changing. The MTPA’s numbers show that from January to September, compared with the same period in 2011, tourist arrivals from Kenya increased by 43.5% and Zimbabwe by 10%. It would appear then that Mauritius is starting to attract African leisure travellers from countries other than South Africa. It’s a point not lost on the MTPA, according to Mootoosamy.

“The Euro crisis has impacted on tourist arrivals from our source markets from Europe,” he says. “There has been a decrease in tourist arrivals from France, UK, Germany and Italy. Comparing  January to September with the same period in 2011, arrivals from France were down 11.9%, the UK 3.8%, Germany 2.4%, and Italy 25.5%.”

All of which means that Mauritius has to keep evaluating its offering and ensuring that it meets the objectives of travellers from those countries who have the spend available, whilst looking at new potential markets and protecting those that have sustained it through the years.

With this in mind, the Mauritius tourism sector currently accounts for 7.9 % of the country’s GDP and the government has taken the decision to inject additional funds into the ‘Special Programme for Emerging Markets’, to attract more tourists from Russia, India and China, where they believe there is growth.

That’s backed up by the view of the national carrier.

“We have seen an increase not only from a leisure perspective, but also from a MICE, groups and corporate traffic perspective, whilst the most noticeable increases in traffic have come from countries such as India, China and Kenya,” says Da Silva.

Mootoosamy points out that Mauritius has also become a popular wedding destination for Chinese and Indian travellers. So, that diversification is taking place and Mauritius is indeed opening itself up to new markets. What certainly helps is that the country has a government that recognises the potential in its tourism offering.

“The Mauritian government values tourism to the island and one sees this in the continued upgrading of the island’s infrastructure, the new roads, and the new terminal at the airport, which will be opening soon. Further afield, there’s support for tourism through the MTPA in South Africa, for example,” says Johann Strydom, Managing Director of World Leisure Holidays, which specialises in trips to Mauritius, Zanzibar, Thailand, Dubai, Maldives, Bahamas and Mexico.

“The government, along with the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority and all the airlines flying to the Indian Ocean islands, have established stakeholder forums and funding to ensure that tourism is a high priority in terms of government agenda,” says Da Silva. “The MTPA works closely with the national carrier and they have also established global offices all over the world, creating partnerships with the different travel and customer segments, as well as the aviation industry.”

Further increasing the appeal of Mauritius is the fact that there is political stability at the highest level, which is something that other African countries struggle with, in terms of their tourism currency in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Since independence from the United Kingdom in 1968, Mauritius has quietly gone about the important business of growing its GDP and reducing income inequality. Today, it’s one of the most prosperous economies in Africa, growing steadily at around 5% per year. The government has also taken bold steps – such as export processing zones – ­to diversify the economy away from the historic mainstay of sugar cane production, and today the island attracts international investment in financial services, textile manufacturing and information technology. But, tourism remains a key driver of the local economy. Further enhancing the travel appeal of the country, there’s no malaria on Mauritius, so unless you’re planning on getting off the beaten track, there’s little to worry about.

Port Louis – in the island’s north-west – is the capital city and home to most business headquarters. Commercial activity is focused around the large harbour, where the bulk of Mauritian exports are processed. The Central Plateau town of Curepipe is second in size to Port Louis – with a Carnegie Library and respected educational institutions it’s an important cultural centre. Ebene City, south of Port Louis, is rapidly becoming a hub for information technology industries.

With all of that in mind, what of Mauritius as a business travel destination?

According to investmauritius.com, “the business environment and the investment climate in Mauritius are constantly being enhanced with a view to strengthening the image of Mauritius as an attractive investment destination.”

The website goes to state that, “the sound economic policy and good governance have made Mauritius the most business-friendly destination in Africa. According to the latest World Bank Doing Business Survey, Mauritius is the No.1 in Africa and 23rd globally in terms of ease of doing business. Canadian Fraser Institute also ranked Mauritius first in Africa and ninth worldwide on its chart of economic freedom.”

As it stands, a foreign investor can set up in Mauritius and be operational in just three working days. Further to that, Mauritius offers a business environment which is conducive to business growth and investment – a low tax regime is in place, where personal and corporate tax are harmonized at a low 15%, dividends are tax free, there is no exchange control and export-oriented operators enjoy duty-free privilege for their inputs and equipment. Mauritius has also enacted anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing legislation, and is internationally known as a well-established, trusted and transparent international financial centre of choice.

“We have definitely seen an increase in business travel,” says Da Silva. “South African banks and retailers such as Mr Price, Woolworths, Pick ‘n Pay and Famous Brands have established offices in Mauritius due to the financial benefits and facilities/benefits provided by the government encouraging investment in Mauritius. Many South African companies are opening a branch or regional offices in Mauritius as offshore investments for the tax benefits. I’ve also noticed villas, apartments and time-sharing become more established and very popular with South Africans who have purchased homes or established themselves as ex-patriots.”

For this reason, South Africa’s tour operators and facilitators of travel to Mauritius have even gone so far as to adapt their offering, to suit the growing business travel need.

“While Mauritius is mainly a leisure destination, business travel is on the increase,” says John Ridler, Media and PR Executive for Cullinan Outbound Tourism, which represents Thompsons Holidays and Island Light Holidays. “Thompsons Holidays now features hotels in and around the capital, Port Louis, to enable the businessman to suitably capitalise on his time in Mauritius. The increase in numbers over the years has even led to the establishment of a dedicated Thompsons team in Mauritius to welcome our clients and ensure that their needs are catered for throughout their island holiday.”

Similarly, and as an extension of business travel, the latest and most popular word out of Mauritius and all its interested parties is ‘MICE’. Everyone, from government (in the form of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority), to tour operators, hotels and airlines, recognise the opportunity for Mauritius to establish itself as the preeminent meetings, incentives, conferences and events destination in Africa. It’s the word on everyone’s lips and all those interested parties want their slice of the pie.

“We have seen an important increase in South African travellers to our Mauritian properties, especially smaller incentive groups, but this year we have also noticed that larger groups have been more adventurous in terms of destination choice,” says Club Med’s Randall. “Mauritius remains an important destination for our MICE business and we are already seeing a good level of interest for 2013.”

The airlines are also benefiting and Da Silva isn’t surprised.

“Mauritius is definitely one of the key destinations for South African MICE business,” she says. “Not only is it close by, but the hotel capacity, infrastructure and value-adds are all in place and well established, with different, innovative packages to meet all budgets. The fact that there are no visa requirements, no malaria and it’s only four hours flying time, makes it ideal. Mauritius also offers different activities in terms of incentive travel, strategic sessions and team-building, over and above the beach experience.”

World Leisure Holidays has a specialised department that focuses exclusively on the MICE market, but Strydom appears a bit more cautious, in terms of the immediate, short-term outlook.

“It is a growing business for us that will yield good results into the future, because at the current time this growth is still subdued by pressure on budgets emanating from a 12-year low in the South African Business Confidence Index (BCI),” he says.

Interestingly, the MTPA has seen an increase in MICE travel from India, which ties in with what

Mootoosamy was saying and what the Mauritius government has identified as a potential growth area. Not too surprising, considering the fact that Hinduism is the predominant religion on the island, at around 52% of the population, followed by Roman Catholicism (31%), Islam (16%) and Buddhism (1%) – according to everyculture.com.

“The multi-cultural make up of Mauritius – not quite African, not quite European and not exactly Indo/Oriental – infuses the island with an exciting air,” says Ridler, and maybe this is just one more reason for the popularity of Mauritius as a leisure travel destination.

Either way, the Mauritius government seems to be in touch with how the market is changing and what it needs to do to remain relevant. Mauritius has enjoyed considerable success over the years, but that will count for nothing if the country sits on its laurels and just expects success and business to come to it. With that in mind, the MTPA strategy going forward is three-prong and crystal-clear in the minds of the organisation and everyone involved:

1. Diversify the market and penetrate niche segments

2. Enhance the product offering (culinary, cultural, sports, eco-tourism) and focus on the  authenticity of the product

3. Look for and engage in joint promotions with airlines to trigger demand

A few other African countries would do well to follow the lead of the Mauritian government. It’s a progressive approach, but it’s also one that can only be adopted, should you have the product to work with. Mauritius undoubtedly has that in spades, particularly when you apply it to the South African market:

  • Proximity and short flight
  • Conducive to family trips
  • Well-developed infrastructure
  • Plenty of hotels (approximately 105)
  • Hotels catering for all budgets
  • High service ethic
  • English widely spoken
  • Safe, relaxed atmosphere
  • No obvious health risks
  • No visa required
  • Politically stable country
  • Favourable climate
  • Beautiful beaches & golf courses
  • Government support

Tough to beat a leisure destination with that list of attractions and that’s why Mauritius will continue to prosper as one of Africa’s ‘go-to’ options for travel, both in the leisure and MICE sectors.

The final word goes to Ridler.

“This is a whole new world and one big island resort – far from the stresses and demands of everyday life. Here you are coaxed to relax, slow down and recharge your life. This is the charm of this little island in the middle of a warm, embracing ocean.”

Visas

With the exception of west and central Africa, passport holders of most African countries do not require a visa to visit Mauritius. Visit www.gov.mu for a full list of exempted passports, and information on how to apply for a visa if required.

Internet Access

With its position as a growing hub for the information technology industry, Internet access is widespread, fast and affordable. Most hotels will offer (often complimentary) Internet access, but public Internet cafés are easy to find in Port Louis. Across the rest of the island, access is mostly found in tourist resorts. International roaming is widely available, although locally-purchased SIM cards are more cost-effective if you plan to make a lot of calls.

Travel

There are plenty of options for travel to Mauritius out of Johannesburg. Air Mauritius and South African Airways fly to the island daily and British Airways on Saturdays. All international flights land at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport in the south of the island. Due to the island’s narrow, winding and congested roads, the drive to Port Louis can take up to two hours, and a pre-arranged transfer is your best option. Metered taxis are also available outside the airport, alongside a range of car hire companies. Within Port Louis, the rush hour traffic jams can make walking the fastest option, but taxis are freely available. Few drivers use the meter, so negotiate a fare upfront. Expect to pay 100 rupees ($3.50)for a short ride across town.

Air Mauritius

Air Mauritius has established codeshare agreements with SAA and Kenya Airways, migrating traffic via the Johannesburg hub and connecting to Mauritius and beyond.

  1. Operates 10 weekly flights out of Johannesburg, and additional supplementary capacity during peak holiday season
  2. Three Cape Town flights direct to Mauritius, return, per week
  3. Network connectivity within six hours of Mauritius to destinations such as Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, London, Paris, India, China, Reunion, Kenya, Madagascar

Tel: + 27 11 601 3900; +27 87 151 1848, airmauritius.com or smarttravel.co.za

Contacts

Consular information: www.gov.mu

National Investment Promotion Agency of Mauritius: www.investmauritius.com

Fact File

Population: 1.3-million

Time zone: GMT +4

Plugs: Three-pin square, although some hotels use round-pin South African plugs

Dialling code: +230

Currency: Mauritius Rupee. US$1=MUS31

GDP growth rate (2010 est.): 4%

Language: Mauritian Creole, French and English

Climate

Mauritius enjoys a year-round tropical climate, with temperatures ranging from 18-24°C in winter, and 25-33°C in summer. Expect the Central Plateau to be about 5°C cooler. While trade winds from the south-east take the edge off the humidity, December to April can be extremely muggy. Tropical cyclones rarely hit Mauritius, but the Jan/Feb cyclone season can bring days of heavy rain.

Travel Tips

Avoid walking the streets of Port Louis after dark, and be on the lookout for pickpockets near busy market areas. Credit cards and travellers’ cheques are widely accepted at Mauritian hotels, and there is no shortage of ATMs in Port Louis and the major tourist areas.

Club Med

Club Med has three properties on the island – La Plantations d’Albion (5-star), La Pointe Aux Cannoniers (4-star) and La Plantations d’Albion Villas. The second phase of the villa concept at La Plantations d’Albion is well under way and expected to be complete in 2013. Club Med is often associated with the close fit it has with all-inclusive Mauritius family holidays, but the hotel and resorts group is eager to punt its MICE offering in 2013, as it looks to attract corporates to what it has to offer in Mauritius.

Other Recommended Hotels

Heritage Le Telfair In Bel Ombre, in the south-west. It’s an old sugar plantation-type estate, with a large pool featuring as the centerpiece. Only the poolside bar separates the swimming area and the beach, with the main dining and bar areas on either side. Great efficiency in design, excellent food, outstanding service and championship golf course.

Long Beach A 5-star Sun Resorts property that opened in April 2011 on the east coast. Has 255 rooms, all with sea views. Many excellent features, including modern and contemporary architecture, large pool, five restaurants around a central piazza, and a beautiful spa in its own setting.

Recommended Golf Courses

  1. Heritage Golf Club
  2. Le Touessrok
  3. Belle Mare Plage
  4. Paradis
  5. Four Seasons
  6. Tamarina
  7. Legend

 Dylan Rogers

  

SHARE
Previous articleFuture of Hotel Rooms
Next articleForex