MAURITIUS LOSES OUT TO MALDIVES ONCE AGAIN
(Posted 28th November 2013)
The slogan ‘Mauritius, it’s a pleasure’ is for certain not on the lips of many tourism stakeholders, after details became available that the Maldives, a recent addition to the Vanilla Island Organization, of which Mauritius appears to be a rather reluctant member, have already exceeded the one million visitor mark this year.
For many years was Mauritius the destination among the Indian Ocean islands off the African mainland but has over the past few years progressively lost ground to in particular the Maldives, which for the first time ever in 2012 overtook Mauritius and claim top spot in terms of arrivals. Even Sri Lanka, which popularity got a boost earlier this month when the island hosted the Commonwealth Summit which added to its visibility in key core markets for their tourism industry. In contrast have Mauritius’ hotelier and DMC’s taken issue with their own tourism promotion agency, the MTPA, which has been accused to have gone stale, doing copycat acts on neighbours Seychelles’ successful marketing juggernaut and failed to come up with a strategy to restore Mauritius tourism leadership, in terms of not just numbers but also in terms of respectability and global industry recognition.
Wrote a regular source from Port Louis when discussing the latest setback, after information became available that the Maldives went through the million visitor mark on 24th November already, giving them 6 more weeks to establish a new visitor record for any of the Indian Ocean islands: ‘We struggle with our government to relax their tight hold on aviation so that we can have more seats on more airlines. We appreciate the efforts and contributions Air Mauritius makes to our sector, there cannot be any doubt that they are trying hard, but a lot more must be done to fill all the new beds which have come up. When you tell me that the Maldives have a bed occupancy now of nearly 74 percent average per year, that is a figure hoteliers in Mauritius can only dream of. Seychelles has increased their visitor number year after year for the past 5 years and we have lost ground. That can have many reasons, but a bad product is not one of them. We have some of the Indian Ocean’s best resorts and they get awards year in year out for their exceptional quality. The main issue is that we have failed to showcase ourselves to the world as we used to do in the past and only a fundamental change at MTPA can accomplish that. We need to take a leaf from what the Seychelles did in 2008 when they started to restructure their tourist board and bring the private sector on board. The second issue is to re-enfranchise all communities in Mauritius and make them part of the whole. Internal divisions and segregation continues to haunt us and do not think for a moment that this has gone unnoticed abroad. For me it is almost as if we have developed our own form of apartheid, politically and as a society. We have top resorts, excellent beaches and even a new look airport, what is lacking is to come together and reinvent ourselves, rebrand ourselves abroad but MTPA the way they are cannot deliver that any longer’.
Harsh words but not new sentiments, as this had been lingering for a while now but with no light as yet on the horizon that the Mauritius government will indeed take notice or understand what it takes to rekindle the destination appeal the island once had. Watch this space for breaking and regular news from the Vanilla Islands.