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AfricaMoney | August 20, 2017

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Mauritius takes on Sri Lanka; Maldives and Seychelles for South African tourists

Mauritius takes on Sri Lanka; Maldives and Seychelles for South African tourists

According to data from Statistics Mauritius from Jan-Sept, South Africa is the island’s fourth-largest tourism source market with 64,261 tourists – after France, Reunion Island and UK. (Image: Stuart WestMoreland)

A traditionally popular destination among South African tourists, the island paradise of Mauritius is facing the heat as Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Seychelles give it a run for tourists’ money, according to global consulting firm PwC.

Last year, the tourism sector on the island grew a mere 2.9%, compared to double-digit growth of 26.7% in Sri Lanka, 16.6% in the Maldives and 10.7% in Seychelles.

Besides, Mauritius also faces stiff competition from other high-end, self-catering residences that attract wealthy visitors, said PwC.

According to data from Statistics Mauritius from Jan-Sept, South Africa is the island’s fourth-largest tourism source market with 64,261 tourists – after France, Reunion Island and UK.

However, given the tough competition with the other Indian Ocean Islands, South African arrivals to Mauritius fell -1.9% over the first nine month of this year, after having grown 5.8% between 2012 and 2013.

More than 50% of tourists to Mauritius are from Europe, which has sent around 385,046 tourists to the island between January and September this year, led by France with more than 159,237 visitors to the island in the same period.

Mauritius is a high-end tourist destination, which relies largely on resort-based tourism targeted at high networth individuals, and this could be a major factor in spurring its susceptibility to changes in tourism preferences among the elite.

Moreover, South Africa is pulling out the plugs on domestic tourism, with SA Tourism having put its weight behind marketing campaigns and websites promoting local tourist hot-spots.

Mauritius then comes across as an expensive destination, with room rates that are 2.7 times the average room rate in South Africa and 28% higher than a local five-star hotel room rate.

PwC puts the average hotel room in Mauritius at €170 a night, and, while the average room rate in Mauritius fell 8.6% in 2013, it appears to be rebounding in 2014, with the global consulting firm expecting a 1.2% increase this year.

Even as the island economy benefits from the positive impacts of an improving global economy and growth in airline capacity, stiff competition from Sri Lanka, Maldives and the Seychelles can be expected to dampen tourist inflows.

While efforts are being made to improve air connectivity, higher airfares to Mauritius continue to be a major reason for the island economy’s loss of market share to other exotic destinations.

With a population of about 1.2-million people, Mauritius welcomes just under 1-million tourists each year, highlighting the importance of tourism to the tiny island nation.

South Africans account for a little under 9% of the total tourist arrivals on the island, which stand till date at 725,623. Of these, 193,840 came from the African continent as a whole, with Mauritius showing greater focus on Africa than ever before, in line with the island’s Expanded Africa Strategy.

Mauritius has an open visa policy for nearly all African states and has invested Rs 16 billion into building a new airport, and is also putting all efforts to create an airport hub to cater better to increasing tourist arrivals, especially in the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) category.

Meanwhile, as the island looks at new tourism markets to offset decline in visitors from Europe, the latest reports show the island’s popularity zooming high among Chinese tourists.

Arrivals from China to Mauritius doubled to more than 40,000 in 2013 from the previous year, and have grown again by 66.5% to 50,645 in the year to date.

In fact, last month, China became Asia’s biggest source market for Mauritius tourists, overtaking India for the first time.

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