Beachcomber Mauritius has recently released details on their losses suffered for the first half of 2012, said to be in the range of over 170 million Rupees, while the companys main rivals in the Mauritius hospitality market, Sun Resorts, is said to have lost over 145 million Rupees during the same period of time.
When publishing figures some weeks ago, of occupancies being as low as between 30 and 40 percent, industry average, for this year in Mauritius, some official sources from the islands tourism marketing establishment tried to discredit the data, which however were confirmed as true by the islands hotel association. This is painting a stark picture for the rest of the year, when the drop in business is expected to become even more pronounced.
It is understood from regular sources in Mauritius that Beachcombers Chief Executive himself went on record over the dismal trend, citing a number of issues the private sector has with the business environment.
Mauritius this year risks being overtaken by the Maldives in terms of arrivals, inspite of that island nation suffering a series of negative publicity issues earlier in the year, when Spas were banned and in the face of massive protests from resort operators allowed to operate again, when airport charges were increased leading to the threat by Qatar Airways at the time of withdrawing their flights if not adjusted and the political upheavals which saw the president ousted. Still have the Maldives maintained their international appeal to tourists and recorded a strong growth in arrivals while in Mauritius the growth factor has shrunk to the very low single digit margins now, and feared to enter negative territory if no decisive action is taken to reverse the trend.
Air access is a crucial issue for us. When Air Mauritius started to cut cost and shelve routes, it had an immediate impact. As an island country we need nonstop flights as a preferred means of coming here. If tourists have to fly through waypoints, like the Gulf for instance, that is making selling Mauritius a little harder for us especially in our core markets in Europe. And then there is the issue of airfares which remain too high as a result of Air Mauritius getting protection, which is good for them but not good for tourism. It is time we face the facts that we need a new strategy for Mauritius, a new aviation strategy, a new marketing strategy. That however is not possible under the present set up and the pathetic flops of first trying to steal the Seychelles carnival, then turn it with a red face into a shopping bonanza and then see that fail too is only putting more nails in the MTPA coffin. It is time we are all told what money has been spent on such vain exercises and deliberate if such funds cannot be spent better. That is a problem for the private sector, and aviation needs a new approach from government too. MTPA is at a stalemate now and Chairman and CEO no longer sing from the same hymn sheet. There will be political fallout when the axe comes down but it is better to prune the tree and let it regrow than let the entire tree rot and fall. Protecting a small group of individuals for political expediency or serving an entire industry, that is the decision we are now waiting for said a regular source from Port Louis in an overnight mail exchange, when discussing the financial impact of tourisms downturn on Mauritius. The recent Routes Africa conference in Seychelles has at least got our airlines talking again and if Air Mauritius, Air Austral and Air Madagascar can find a formula to cooperate on a route network complementing each other instead of competing cut throat, that also can have some benefits for travelers from Australia and China. But this is still early stages. I agree with you that such cooperation and talks should have started years ago and not wait until our main airlines bleed money and fold he then added, obviously referring to a recent meeting in La Reunion where island president Didier Robert answered the media together with the Mauritius tourism minister Michael Sik Yuen and Madagascar Tourisms Ms. Vola Raveloson. He on the occasion announced that such airline talks were taking place already.
There is now growing speculation about how much longer Sun Resorts, but especially Beachcomber can sustain such losses before having to start selling the family silver. While on the Seychelles for a week on a fact finding mission and writing assignments, there were murmurs detected that the company could be compelled to sell some of their properties, and if not those on Mauritius perhaps some elsewhere across the Indian Ocean like in the Seychelles, to raise much needed cash. That, if found true, would then only compound the pressure on the Mauritius government to finally swing into action, and embark on a progressive restructuring of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, starting at the top, where a notable lack of vision and strategy has seen MTPA go literally shtumm in comparison for instance with the ongoing marketing juggernaut by Seychelles, which has become visible way beyond their own size by courting trade partners, airlines and in particular courting the global media, which have turned into friends and allies.
Mixed fortunes it seems for the main destinations in the African Indian Ocean and beyond, where Sri Lanka is fast catching up with Mauritius too, now that peace has returned to that island at last. Be sure to watch this space to read it first, when things begin to seriously unravel within the official Mauritius tourism establishment and an increasingly vocal private sector will be out claiming the scalps of those they think are responsible for their increasing misfortunes.