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Mauritius makes China a priority

Ministry of Tourism and Leisure Hon Michael Yeung Sik Yuen is now targeting Chinese travellers who will help diversifying tourist arrivals sources and compensate for a weak performance of the French market.

PARIS – For many years, Mauritius has mostly relied on tourist arrivals from Europe and particularly France. “Europe represented until recently up to 60% of all tourist arrivals. But this is now changing as most incoming markets from Europe are suffering of the economic recession”, explains the Hon. Michael Yeung Sik Yuen, Minister of Tourism and Leisure of the Republic of Mauritius. As arrivals from France –Mauritius largest source market with a share of 27% of all arrivals- declined last year by 13.2%, Mauritius tourism experienced a mediocre performance last year, growing only by 0.1% to 965,441 tourist arrivals.

Diversifying tourist incoming sources has then turned into a necessity for the well-known resort island. “We target BRIC countries and particularly China. However, we are just at the beginning of our promotion towards the Chinese market”, indicates Mr. Yeung Sik Yuen, a Mauritian native from Chinese descent; “the Maldives have totally embraced China tourism, receiving now some 200,000 tourists from China every year. Despite a growth last year of almost 40%, total Chinese arrivals remains below its potential as we only welcomed 21,000 visitors”, adds the Minister.

Priority is for now to facilitate air access to Mauritius for Chinese travellers. Mauritius penned last year a bilateral air services agreement with China for the launch of regular services. Since January 2013, Mauritius national carrier Air Mauritius is operating two weekly flights to Shanghai.The carrier started to operate regular charter flights in July to Beijing with one weekly frequency. “We need to buiuld up more our marketing presence as Chinese favourite islands are today the Maldives, Hawaii and Bali. We need to be more present on the Chinese market. It has been a priority for me since I took office  two years ago”, adds Mr. Yeung Sik Yuen.

India is another market which is easier to target due to its proximity and the presence of an important Indian community in Mauritius. Last year, India was the fifth largest inbound market for the island. “India bears enormous potential for wedding and honeymoon tourism. We start to get in fact many Indian travellers interested to get married in Mauritius”, says the Minister.
Could also Japan be another interesting market for Mauritius? “We did not prioritize Japan in our marketing plans as the country is a little bit further away. But it is an interesting market in the long term”, tells Mr. Yeung Sik Yuen.

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.