Mauritius minister sees 11 pct rise in visitors in 2015 - CNBC Africa

Mauritius minister sees 11 pct rise in visitors in 2015

Southern Africa

by Reuters 0

The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius expects to attract 11 percent more tourists in 2015 than last year. PHOTO: REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius expects to attract 11 percent more tourists in 2015 than last year and aims for steady growth in future of 6 percent a year, the tourism minister said.

Charles Gaëtan Xavier-Luc Duval, who is also deputy prime minister, told Reuters that a major focus was boosting numbers in the island's winter season, running from June to September, by drawing more visitors from India, China, Africa and Russia.

But he said Mauritius wanted an "orderly" increase in tourist numbers that did not compromise quality of service.

"We are not going to be slaves to quantity," he said in an interview. "Mauritius has over the past developed a very high quality of tourism. It is going to remain high quality tourism."

His government, which came to power at the end of 2014, has imposed a two-year ban on building new hotels until December 2016 to avoid driving prices lower and to allow the existing hotel network, which has 11,000 rooms, to renovate and invest.

"We thought that in the past there was too much hotel construction," he said.

Mauritius, which boasts luxury resorts, palm-fringed beaches and a population speaking French and English, saw visitor numbers slide during the global financial crisis, which particularly hit its key markets, such as France.

But it has increasingly turned to Asia to broaden the appeal of an industry that accounts for 7 percent of gross domestic product and to ensure a more steady flow of arrivals.

"The aim of the tourism ministry is to eliminate the low seasons," Duval said, adding that 60,000 Chinese visited last year and that was already up 40 percent this year. He said the target was to attract 100,000 a year in future.

Overall, visitor numbers climbed 11 percent in the nine months to September compared to the same period in 2014.

Duval expected that to continue till the year's end, which would mean total visitors for 2015 would reach 1.125 million. Mauritius drew more than 1 million for the first time in 2014.

Despite rising numbers, central bank figures suggested tourist revenues in the first half had fallen by 3.5 percent. But the tourism minister said hotels had not seen a revenue fall and the central bank has said it is reviewing its figures.

Duval said attracting more airlines with increased frequency to the island would help draw visitors from new markets and assist with a broader goal for making Mauritius a regional hub.

Air Mauritius has 12 aircraft, but a new airport terminal that opened in 2013 can handle 4 million passengers a year.

Mauritius signed a deal with China for 56 flights a week between the two states and also allows Chinese carriers to pick up passengers for Africa. For now, there are six flights a week, with China Southern Airlines coming twice a week.

Emirates flies in an A-380, the world's biggest passenger plane, twice a day. Turkish Airlines, which has a large global network, will start flights to the island in December, beginning with three a week and rising to four in February, Duval said.