Chinese tourists top of the agenda for Mauritius
An interview of Mauritius’ tourism minister Michael Yeung Sik Yuen (centre) with the Travel Channel crew in May (Source: Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority)
Recession has eaten into Mauritius’ tourist footfalls, as Europe and France were the mainstay of the hospitality industry of the island nation. Michael Yeung Sik Yuen, Minister of Tourism and Leisure, Mauritius confirms that Europe represented until recently up to 60% of all tourist arrivals but is fast dwindling in strength as disposable incomes in Europe fall and budges for travel diminish. As arrivals from France – representing the largest tourist contingent with a share of 27% of all arrivals to the island nation – declined by 13.2% in 2012, Mauritius tourism industry presented a below-average scorecard. The tourist arrivals grew merely 0.1% over the preceding year to stand at 965,441 visitors.
Diversifying the sources of incoming tourists has then turned into a necessity for the island, famed for its high-end resort tourism. The minister, a Sino-Mauritian, adds that in the process of diversifying the tourist base, the island nation is eyeing BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), with particular focus on China.
Official estimates show that in 2012 alone, as many as 255,000 Chinese dropped by the Maldives, Mauritius and the Seychelles, almost double the number of visitors in 2011, even as total tourist arrivals remained largely flat at 2.1 million. However, while Mauritius has just begun to put China at the centre of its tourism industry, the Maldives have already totally embraced China tourism, receiving now some 200,000 tourists from China every year. Consequently, while 40% growth was logged in 2012, total Chinese arrivals remains below its potential as Mauritius only received 21,000 visitors.
However, since January, arrivals from the Chinese market have well and truly kicked off with more than 11,880 inbound arrivals representing an outstanding growth of 71. 9% compared to last year’s performance. The minister said he was looking forward to double the number of arrivals of the Chinese market compared to 2012 and to have more than 40,000 Chinese tourists visiting Mauritius by the end of 2013.
Facilitating air access to Mauritius for Chinese travelers is currently top of the agenda to get more Chinese tourists interested in the island nation. Only last year, Mauritius entered into a bilateral air services agreement with China for the launch of regular services. Also, the national carrier Air Mauritius has been operating two weekly flights to Shanghai since the start of this year. The carrier has also started operating regular charter flights in July to Beijing on a weekly basis. Yuen adds that Mauritius needs to build up a greater marketing presence in China and establish a better connect with the average Chinese traveler as it currently ranks below Maldives, Bali and Haiti as a getaway for Chinese tourists.
Besides China, India is another emerging market which is easier to target due to its proximity. A large Indian community in Mauritius makes the task of attracting Indian tourists even easier. So, only last year, India was the fifth largest inbound market for the island. The minister confirms that India bears enormous potential for wedding and honeymoon tourism with many Indian travellers interested in Mauritius as a marriage venue.
Japan is one market though that is currently untapped and could stay that way for some time. While the Asia-Pacific island could prove an interesting inbound market for Mauritius, the minister feels that this is more a medium to long term plan. The distance factor especially acts as a deterrent, causing air fares to spiral and making it unattractive for a short getaway.