The Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) was established in 1996 to enhance the image of Mauritius as a prime holiday and up-market destination by consolidating traditional markets, penetrating emerging markets and exploiting niche segment in new markets. Kevin Ramkaloan, Director of the MTPA, details how the organization plans to bring Mauritius closer to the world.
What measures have been taken to reposition Mauritius as a leading island destination?
Until 2015, the Mauritius tourism sector was growing at an average rate of 3% to 4% a year. And for many years, it was under the world average growth rate. But since 2015, we’ve seen a remarkable increase in tourism growth numbers: from 2015 up until October 2016, the Mauritian tourism industry has grown twice as fast as the world average, averaging a rate of 11%. There has been a real turn-around in the way that we’re approaching tourism in Mauritius. Firstly, what we do in a very systematic way is rate our hotels. Every single hotel in Mauritius has a star rating, starting with a three-star rating to a five-star luxury rating. There are criteria that are specific to Mauritius. Hotels need to have a family area, and they need to have a swimming pool, for example. So based on that, we’ve been able to create a very homogenized set of criteria, because there’s nothing worse than a client coming in to what they hope to be a five-star hotel and get three-star service.
How are you bringing Mauritius closer to the world?
You might have the best product in the world, but if people can’t reach you, you can’t go very far. Since 2015, there has been a very strong move towards opening up our skies to foreign aviation operators. This has been quite successful in making the destination more and more connected. When we look at Asia, which is the future for Mauritius, we can see a lot of interest. Air Mauritius is increasing its direct flights both from India and from China, and they have shifted their hub from Malaysia to Singapore to be able to create the Asia-Africa Corridor. New policies to support accessibility brought us a record in October 2016, when arrivals increased 20%, higher than any other month on record.
How is Mauritius preparing to receiving visitors from untraditional markets, such as China?
From 2000 to 2005, we had around on average 700,000 to 800,000 tourists. Today, we have almost 1.2 million tourists, with around 50% to 55% coming from Europe. In Asia, however, which used to represent 6%, today accounts for 18% going on 20%. The Chinese market has always been important. It’s one of the 10 markets that bring us more than 85% of our arrivals. The ones that bring us more than a 100,000 tourists for the moment are France, Reunion, UK, and South Africa. We believe that by 2018, China and India will also be in that group.
How is Mauritius building awareness in China and what have you learned?
In the Mauritius Marathon, there were around 30 to 40 Chinese runners that came, and they all WeChat’ed about it. We also do regular exit surveys with Chinese tourists to continuously understand their needs more. I believe we have a better profile today of the Chinese tourist than we had before. They’re young. They’re not necessarily the family segment. I think the biggest group is the young adult couple or friends group under 24 that come into Mauritius, including honeymooners. We see groups of friends, couples, family, and then honeymooners in this order. We see that many Chinese choose high-end hotels because they enjoy the five-star hotel experience. They also do a lot of activities and are the largest spenders when it comes to activities in this country. They are the only group that spends more out of hotels as opposed to in hotels for Mauritius.
How are you ensuring that growing numbers of tourists don’t negatively impact your environment?
We aim to ensure that the tourism sector develops in a sustainable manner. There’s a lot that’s being done regarding conversation and sustainability, including economic sustainability. We manage licenses for operators so there’s never oversupply, which would trash the market. Then there is cultural sustainability, which ensures that when tourists come to Mauritius, they become a part of our cultural diversity and ensure that our culture isn’t lost through tourism.