I’m from Los Angeles, California, which is over 18,000 kilometers away from home. I’m literally on the other side of the world. I’ve been seeing the world for 18 years now and never heard of Mauritius until now. That’s because I was lucky to come here, because I had enough Avios miles from British Airways.
The one thing that strikes me as amazing about this place is the kindness of the people. In my first week here, my sandal strap ripped. So I was walking bare-footed until a Mauritian lady took pity on me. She found me a pair of used flip flops and gave them to me. She insisted that I no longer walk bare footed, because it looked like it hurt. I didn’t even know her.
But because it’s the month of May in Grand Bay, an area known to be a tourist hot spot, the island is like a ghost town with very few tourists. I hope that can change.
According to Hari, my guest house owner, he says, “While business is booming in the summer, the problem with running a business here is making it through the low season.” I went to a restaurant in Pereybere, and I was the only customer. The French owner said it’s full in the high season, but in the low seasons nobody is here. In fact, I went to a famous restaurant in Grand Bay, and the waitress asked if I’d like to make a reservation. I said, “Do I really need to?”
According to the Mauritian Ministry of Tourism, tourism is the “third pillar of the economy . . .[which], contributes significantly to economic growth and has been a key factor in the overall development of Mauritius.” Even back in 2000, “gross tourism receipts were 14.2 billion rupees (508.3 million US $) and contributed to about 11 % of our GDP.”
It’s even more now. Tourism has increased since by 6% since 2016. The government estimates that nearly one million tourists come to Mauritius every year.
The solution to stimulate the Mauritian economy is to open budget flights from Asia and South Africa. Mauritius could be the next Bali, Indonesia in Africa.
In fact, I’ve been to Bali. Besides the wonderful atmosphere, beaches, and islands, I remember all the friends that I made. Several Brits, an Italian, and I all traveled together to the outer keys for 10 days together. No wonder that on April 4, 2017, TripAdvisor declared Bali the number one tourist destination.
Regarding tourism, Jakarta Post states that Bali had 5.5 million tourists in 2017. Think about that. If an average tourist spends $100 a day for a week, Bali’s economy is injected by $3.85 billion or $135 billion Rupees.
And the Indonesian government wants more. For 2018, the Indonesian government is estimated to spend $7.36 million to try to bring 7 million tourists.
Keep in mind that Australia sends the most tourists to Bali. In 2016, according to Traveller, Australia makes up 1.25 million of all tourists to Bali. That means, anywhere from 23% to 28% of all tourists come from the nearby country Down Under.
Hence, like Bali, Mauritius needs to tap into tourism from neighbors. According to Côte Nord Magazine, although it’s true that Reunion Island brings in 16,476 tourists, the highest numbers to Mauritius during the low season, South Africa, which is one of the hubs of travel for the entire African continent, is generally untapped.
Also, it’s key to remember that 68 percent of Mauritians have origins in India, and 3% have Chinese ones. That means in total, 71% percent of the Mauritian population originates from Asia. Thus, Mauritius needs to be introduced to the Asian continent.
It’s unfortunate that on March 25, 2017, routes on the budget airline AirAsia X was cancelled. There’s only speculation as to why. The consequences are, however, clear. Those ultimately hurt are the local businesses of the island and their families.
There is good news however. Since April 16, 2018, Eurowings has opened budget flights to Mauritius for only around 400 Euros return. One month later in May of 2018, Hari, the hotel owner mentioned earlier, is already feeling the effects. He says, “It’s so great that Eurowings are bringing in clients. It’s definitely keeping business stable.”
But Mauritius isn’t Bali. I liked the locals and the food better here. I do, however, wish I could’ve met more international guests, especially as an étudiant de la langue française (student of the French language). At least learning French gives me an excuse to come back to Mauritius, which I very much look forward to.