Every year on 18 April, International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) celebrates the International Day for Monuments and Sites, whose establishment was approved by the 22nd UNESCO General Conference in 1983. For 2017, the theme is “Cultural Heritage & Sustainable Tourism”, chosen in relation to the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. Mauritius is known for its beaches, sand, sun and sea. But experts in the Tourism industry states that it is high time that Mauritius promotes sustainable tourism and provides more inland activities to tourists. Debate by the younger generation.
Hansha Booneyad: “The tourist industry should venture beyond its traditional means”
Sustainability in the context of tourism would mean that the tourist industry impacts positively on the Mauritian society by being cost effective as well as environmental friendly, says Hansha. “Two main factors that may threaten sustainable tourism are political instability and environmental issues. The heavenly setting of our country is what attracts tourists to Mauritius: charming climate, wildlife and marine life. Tourism would no longer be sustainable if it destroys the very environment for which tourists come to our country. This includes diseases that affect animals, as it happened recently. People became apprehensive about the consumption of meat and if this incident had worsened, tourists would have thought twice before consuming our food, which would adversely affect tourists’ choice of their holiday destinations. Policies that provide more scrutiny at the airport would prevent such dilemma.”
According to her, political decisions can be taken to keep the environment healthy whereby there is no social crises, as this may prevent tourism to flourish. “For instance, the political outbreak in 1968 that entailed racial tension had impacted heavily on tourism because the country was a hostile place at that time. A stable political environment would therefore be economically viable to the tourist industry in Mauritius. It is unfortunate for tourists who come to our country and stay in hotels that restrict them only to sea, sand and beaches. Our island has much more to offer. We have an interesting history, a wildlife full of fauna and flora and a colourful culture that one can’t experience in hotels and on beaches. This would not only raise cultural awareness among foreigners but also would help other businesses to benefit from tourism. Museums, natural parks and cultural sites would create employment for citizens, they would make profits from entry fees and we wouldbe able to upgrade the infrastructures of old museums and preserve cultural sites.
She further says that “the tourist industry should venture beyond its traditional means of development and come up with more ways that would be cost effective and sustainable. Only then tourism will maintain its contribution to our economy.”
Abhishek Fowdur: “Mauritius should promote long term economic operations”
Mauritius is known as a paradise destination because of its beaches, states Abhishek. “Beaches are among the main attractions for tourists. To enhance sustainable tourism, we need to start with exposure to our heritage of multi-culturalism. Our diverse cultural and traditional values form part of our history. The use of recycled products is another way to promote sustainable tourism. Garbage, such as discarded newspapers, can be recycled to produce tissue papers. Providing reusable bags, for instance, to tourism is indirectly endorsing Mauritius as a green island.” For him, Mauritius already has its assets in the shape of places of interest. However, better care should be taken. “Using eco-friendly methods for leisure activities would be better. Fishing, for example, is a good activity compared to one which might pollute the sea. It is not a bad idea to explore the historical sites, but there are certain places in Mauritius where ruins have become fragile and some people do not respect nature. Rules should be strict on such heritage sites. If the use of food is allowed on such sites, definitively sustainable tourism will suffer. Since Mauritius does not have mines and gold, therefore consideration should be taken for long term economic operations to fulfill the needs of tourism, environment, and host communities.”
Deepesh Busawah: “Time to reinvent the Mauritius brand”
Deepesh argues that sustainable tourism, in a more contemporary way is referred to as ecotourism which as per the Oxford online dictionary seems to be a term referring to the protection of environment on a long term basis with endeavour to preserve local wildlife, and again according to the Oxford dictionary, it seems to be a term that has first been used and explored by the Associated Press Newswire in the year 1980! “We are in 2017 and almost more than four decades later, why are we still pondering if Mauritius should embrace this philosophy? Costa Rica, according to the internet, seems to be the most eco-friendly destination in the world, and according to reports from the Costa Rica’s National Institute for Tourism, in the year 2008, they received around two million visitors which generated over two billion dollars in revenue, but again research shows that France is number 1 ranked in terms of visitors in the world whereby Costa Rica is ranked as 56th. I am just a layman and have no knowledge of the tourism world and its functioning but from what I understand, only promoting nature and its protection won’t suffice. So what is the success recipe of France? The most popular visitors’ spots in France are the Louvre Museum, Eiffel Tower and Palace of Versailles in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place respectively.”
He highlights that France has adopted a holistic approach to its tourist development program, where French authorities have predominantly worked on zealously promoting aspects such as culture, nature and entertainment, among a host of others. “In this highly competitive world, should the Mauritian tourist stakeholders not espouse the approach of the World Tourist Leader? We are not France, we are surely neither Singapore nor Dubai but we are Mauritius! The way forward for Mauritian Tourism, to move from the triple image of sun, sand and sea, is to reinvent the Mauritius brand. Mauritius, as a destination should possess its distinct wow factor to woo tourists with different interests.”
Anjinsen Valamootoo: «Preserving the cultural side of Mauritius»
For the past decades, Mauritius has been known as a luxury destination, that is, beautiful sandy beaches, turquoise lagoons and a variety of 5 stars resorts add to the high-class reputation of this paradise destination, declares Anjisen. “However, when you live on a small island, the proverb ‘what comes around goes around’ takes a whole new dimension. More and more tourists are visiting our island thus depleting our natural resources and increasing the rate of land pollution. Therefore, as the tourism industry is one of the pillars of the Mauritian economy, it is the duty of all inbound operators to protect the ‘top-end’ reputation of tourism in our country and makes every endeavour to ensure that guided tourist groups are environmentally conscious and treat with respect our coastal environment, wildlife, sights and monuments, cultural heritage and also local customs and sensitivities.”
He further adds that “nowadays, inbound operators of the tourism industry should lay more emphasis on green tourism where visitors are discovering the island differently and exploring the beauty of its nature through hiking, mountain-biking, horse riding, trekking and kayaking. So this is one side of the coin. The other side consists of preserving and keeping the cultures of the island alive; and there is an amazing variety of cultures in Mauritius. Engaging actively in their survival can actually be an enriching holiday experience in itself; a magical and special time spent in a positive way. This is why most tour operators are coming with a new concept where tourists are living with the local inhabitants instead of staying in expensive hotels. In this way, they are participating in the local culture like festivals, weddings, consuming local dishes, visiting historical places like the Morne Brabant and the Aapravasi Ghat.”