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Mauritius has signed a Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) with Australia at the Treasury Building in Port Louis. The signatories were Ambassador Susan Coles from the Australian side and Mr Sateeaved Seebaluck, Secretary to Cabinet and Head of Civil Service, from the Mauritian side. In her speech, Ms Coles pointed out that the agreement formalises arrangements for flights between the two countries, which will further facilitate the movement of people and goods between the two countries. “This in turn will contribute to improved trade, tourism and improved people-to-people links,” she said. She also highlighted that this agreement will help to further strengthen ties between the two countries while adding that the bilateral relations Mauritius and Australia are based on friendship, shared interests and values such as democracy, common vision and mutual interest. Mr Seeballuck said that the agreement is a landmark in the strategy of Government for a more open and robust air access policy that takes into account the national interest and economic growth. “This will no doubt contribute to the new economic agenda for Mauritius to achieve its second economic miracle,” he said. The Agreement The signature creates the necessary framework to promote the development of air links and exchanges between the two countries. The main provisions are as follows: (i) multiple designation of airlines; (ii) the designated airline(s) of each party will be entitled to operate up to 7 frequencies per week whilst operating services to/from Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney on the Mauritius/Australia route; (iii) on the specified routes to/from points in Australia other than Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, the designated airline(s) of each party may determine the frequency, capacity and aircraft type in operating passenger services and combination passenger/cargo services; and (iv) fifth freedom traffic rights. At present, Air Mauritius currently operates two to three weekly flights to Perth. Over and above the direct flights to Perth, it also code shares, as marketing carrier, on Virgin Australia’s flights, between Perth and the following cities in Australia: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, since October 2013. Enhancing air traffic The outbound tourism market of Australia hovers around 8.7 million tourists annually. In 2015, some 17,900 Australians visited Mauritius and in the same year 8,500 Mauritian nationals visited Australia. Compared to 2014, Mauritius witnessed a marginal growth of 2% in tourist arrivals from Australia in 2014 and 2015. It is a fact that the Australian destination is a market which is not being exploited at its maximum capacity. There are presently direct flights to only Perth in Australia, and no flights to/from the Eastern part of Australia, which has a population of 12 million compared to 2 million in Perth. Melbourne also represents an opportunity for direct air access to another Australian gateway. The air corridor project with Singapore is also expected to give a boost in traffic between Mauritius and Australia, in particular from the Eastern and Northern parts of Australia, and pave the way forward for a more competitive offer, as well as an aggressive marketing of Mauritius in different parts of Australia. The government has adopted a more open and robust air access policy that takes into account both the national interest and economic growth. In this context, existing BASAs are being enhanced and new Agreements are being concluded in order to explore new markets and destinations.