Paul Jones

Paul Jones

CEO of Lux* Resorts & Hotels

Tourism / Mauritius

“Our understanding of the needs of Chinese tourists continues to grow”

LUX* Resorts & Hotels is a member of Lux Island Resorts, a luxury hotel group listed on the Stock Exchange Market of Mauritius, which owns numerous properties across the island, as well as several across the Indian Ocean and China. Paul Jones, CEO of LUX*, tells us more.

What makes LUX* Mauritius’ operations distinct when compared to your other global assets, especially those in the region such as La Reunion and the Maldives?
The distinction comes in the way every LUX* property embraces the nature, culture, and spirit of its own particular location. For example, Mauritius is generally known for its beaches and physical beauty, but there is much more to the country and we try to bring the local culture, flavours and wares into the heart of our properties. Activities like local Sega (traditional dance) performances, photo safaris to some of the hidden places of the island, or experiencing the local culture in our ‘Mari Kontan’ rum shack, help our guests celebrate life rather than just enjoying the country’s beautiful beaches.

What key trends are you currently witnessing in the Mauritius tourism industry?
Last year, 1.2 million tourists visited the island, an 11% increase over the previous year. This growth was mostly driven by European tourists, which made up 58% of the arrivals to Mauritius and was largely contributed by the government’s open-air access policy. The increase in seat capacity to the destination has been beneficial to all tourism stakeholders. At LUX*, we have over the years increased our regional sales offices to ensure we cover all key regions. Last year, for example, LUX* captured around 6% of the total number of tourists coming to the island. We have also observed over the years a gradual shift in the way people book, from traditional tour operators to online channels.

How does LUX* plan to innovate its offerings?
We embrace particularly two key focus areas – digital connectivity and ecological sustainability. Our objective is to keep abreast of the latest technology trends and ensure that we leverage this accordingly in both our current operations as well as in new projects, whether it is a hotel refurbishment or a totally new property. We continue to improve our IT infrastructure over the years: today we have a centralized hospitality system with multi-property interface that allows an un-fragmented and efficient data-collection process.

What aspects of the Mauritian environment and culture make it a destination of choice that would be naturally appealing to Chinese tourists?
For most Chinese tourists, Mauritius is still a relatively new, remote and exotic destination compared to the Maldives and Thailand. Younger generations, especially those discerning and English-speaking ones, prefer destinations that are not so over-crowded with Chinese tourists. The island is getting increasingly popular thanks to the direct flights, visa-free policy and marketing campaigns. The stunning nature, clear lagoons, long and white beaches, mountainous inland, as well as a rich variety of water are all great attractions for Chinese tourists, notwithstanding the historical and multi-cultural heritage of Mauritius which makes the island particularly interesting. There is also the good air quality, which many places in China suffer from a lack of.

What impacts will the aviation deal made with China and Singapore’s Changi Airport have on LUX’s Mauritius operations?
With a connecting flight in Mauritius, travellers from Singapore and other Asian countries have easier access to more destinations in Africa and other Indian Ocean Islands, and vice versa. It opens up good opportunities for new tourism markets. LUX*, as well as other hotel groups, can only benefit from these opportunities. We are already in China, and are strengthening our presence there with new projects in the pipeline, and soon in Southeast Asia. With an increasing number of routes available, LUX* Mauritius operations are prepared to equally welcome a potentially increasing number of visitors who are aware of the LUX* brand and want to experience it for themselves. With the air connections between several countries of the two continents being leveraged, prospects for both tourists and investors alike can only improve. Already between April and November 2016, the Mauritius-Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route has generated a 20% growth in traffic with more than 25,000 passengers carried. This is not a negligible number.

Given LUX’s experience within the China market, what value can LUX* provide for Chinese investors and tourists?
With our presence already established in China and the considerable number of Chinese guests staying at our resorts, LUX* is indeed well positioned within the China market compared to other Mauritian hotel groups. Our understanding of the needs of Chinese tourists continues to grow as we welcome an increasing number of them. Similarly for Chinese investors, as we open more properties and continue to expand within China and other high touristic locations. These invaluable experiences help us adapt our services continuously and refine the experiences offered to both. In all our resorts, we do everything to make our Chinese guests feel at home. Right upon arrival, Chinese-speaking team members are available to welcome and take care specifically of Chinese guests. And during their stay, we provide numerous Chinese-friendly services and facilities, such as print materials/services all translated in Chinese, Chinese Chefs, a wide selection of Chinese delicacies daily at our buffets, Chinese TV channels, games (Mahjong), activities (Tai Chi), movies, books, magazines, and newspapers. We have a bridal studio that has been designed specifically with Chinese guests in mind, and we have Chinese therapists on board to assist all Chinese guests at the spa and offer traditional Chinese medicine treatments, namely our famous zhengliao treatment, in dedicated rooms.

Finally, what type of opportunities does China’s Maritime Silk Road initiative represent for Mauritius tourism?
With the promotion of the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas, one can expect stronger partnerships and cooperation among the countries along the Maritime Silk Road. Mauritius can become an important hub due to its strategic location along this road, linking these continents. It is a win-win opportunity. With LUX*’s current presence and future expansion in China, Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean, the UAE, Turkey, all on the Maritime Silk Road, we aim to continue strengthening brand awareness and become the number one choice for all potential guests along the road.