Tourism earnings for 2018 amounted to Rs 64 billion and is forecasted at Rs 67.5 billion in 2019 by the Bank of Mauritius. The total passenger arrivals for the period of January to September 2018 amounted to 1,307,370 representing an increase of 4.7%. In 2018, the Government agreed for the implementation of the Tourism Strategic Plan 2018-2021. The Strategic Plan advocates a skill-intensive and technology-driven model of tourism development, taking into account the goals set in the Government Programme 2015-2019 and the Vision 2030 statement.
The Plan also adopts a four-pronged strategy geared towards intensifying the visibility of the destination, improving accessibility to the destination, enhancing the attractiveness of Mauritius and fostering sustainable tourism development to promote a globally competitive and sustainable tourism industry with a well-diversified tourism product portfolio catering for different tourist profiles. The Strategic Plan incorporates some 84 projects and programmes that will have to be implemented by different Agencies within a given time frame.
Last month, the Minister of Tourism Anil Gayan announced that in 2019, the Emirates Airline will not serve the country from April 15th until the end of May. It is thus expected that the country will open to other airlines to compensate for the shortfall. Anil Gayan also expressed his concerns about the Chinese market, saying he hopes that Air Mauritius will increase the number of flights to Shanghai. Religious tourism is also one of the avenues that the Ministry will be exploring in 2019. The Minister also announced that 10 new hotel construction projects have been approved and will ultimately represent 1,000 additional rooms to be filled.
So how will the tourism sector be doing in 2019? According to the Managing Director of Tourism Business Intelligence, in 2019 tourism is likely to grow in terms of arrivals. “However it will remain stagnant, if not less, in terms of tourist spending. This is simply because our tourism product mix has not evolved over time in line with the expectations of the new generation of world travellers, the millenials. Tourism will continue to sustain the local economy relatively more than other sectors. And this is not a very re-assuring sign for the country in general, the more so that tourism has been showing jobless growth for quite a while. It is sad that there is no innovation in tourism in Mauritius nor do we have any bold policy measures, an intelligent strategic plan or even an ambition to do more and better.”
Sen Ramsamy states that there are other activities which should be explored. “We simply sell the sun, sand and sea, and that, too, for the past 70 years, whilst world travellers are in a quest for better human interactions, cultural enrichment and personal experience and our competitors are maneuvering with new thinking and more creating ideas. There are plenty of new initiatives to incite our visitors to spend more on the island, not only in hotels, but more importantly in numerous other activities in our capital city, in our towns and villages for the greater good. These are huge missed opportunities.”
Our country, he states, no longer has visionaries for tourism, like an Amédée Maingard or a Sir Gaëtan Duval. “Young talents are not given the opportunity to shine. We keep recycling old ideas and concepts. Designing a new vision for tourism requires business intelligence, leadership qualities and a good dose of audacity. This is what Mauritius is lamentably lacking for years. It is time that tourism be given its rightful place and better consideration in the hierarchy of our economic agenda.” He trusts it all starts by having an inspiring political leadership to lead this sector.
“Public officials dealing with tourism are simply out of touch or only interested in the generous perks and the glamour. The hotel operators should also invest more in their human capital, it being a determinant factor for sustainable growth, operational success and business profitability. They should also learn how to think beyond family and friends when it comes to the supply chain and to reward hard work, achievements and build on the success stories of their employees. I am well aware that some hotels, not the least, do take on board young, qualified and highly talented youngsters as trainees, make them work days and nights, and often times assign to them such jobs that their own staff refuse to perform, and at the end of the month, these young men and women do not even get a single rupee as stipend, in the name of training. This is simply shameful and unworthy of the hotel sector. Hotels should learn to look at the bigger picture for their own business survival in the future,” he utters.
However, Sen Ramsamy trusts that the tourism sector remains a promising one for the country, for its people and for the future generation. “Tourism in Mauritius has still enormous potentials for our economy and holds promises for our children. It must, however, be properly strategized to transform its hopeful future into meaningful actions and higher value addition.”