Despite the islands close proximity to the African continent, Mauritius attracts more inbound tourists from Europe than from Africa, which is ironic considering the difference in travel time and the wealth of attractions, leisure resorts and business tourism benefits that the island has to offer, writes Beverley Langkilde.
Having been invited on a media familiarization trip by the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MPTA) to experience the launch of two new events on the island in early July, I did a bit of predeparture research and was amazed to discover that according to the UNWTO, Europe accounts for 65 per cent of the island’s total non-resident tourist arrivals, compared to 23 per cent from Africa. Of the Africa arrivals, over 10 per cent emanate from their closest neighbour Reunion, followed by South Africa at 9 per cent. France dominates arrivals from Europe at 26 per cent, which makes sense considering the language aspect, and probably comprises to a large degree visiting friends and family.
My jam packed five-night itinerary as a hosted media journalist was cut short by a day as the planned Air Mauritius flight departure was postponed at the last minute to the following day, which was rather inconvenient for me as a Durbanite having to incur an additional night’s accommodation in Johannesburg, and having to miss the opening celebrations of the events which I had been invited to cover. Mango Air, who I used for my domestic return flights deserve berating for their bureaucratic policy regarding luggage weight and flight change surcharges but I’ll get to that later in this report.
Arriving at the Sir S Ramgoodam International Airport proved to be a breeze with the customs officials being as polite and welcoming as the staff of the Récif Attitude Hotel where our small media retinue checked in for the first night. Attitude is a family owned and managed group of seven 3- and 4-star hotels offering a total of 575 rooms. The staff of the 70-room Récif Attitude Hotel certainly live up to the group’s name.
For more information visit: www.lerecif.com/mauritius/thehotel.htm
Le Grand Bleu Hotel
Being a 3-star graded hotel overlooking the bay of Trou aux Biches, the room amenities at Le Grand Bleu Hotel are average and equipped with rather noisy air conditioners. The dining experience however is deserving of a higher rating while its location overrides any misgivings on the room amenities.
For more information visit: www.legrandbleuhotel.com
The Carnival of Flic en Flac
We visited the first ‘Carnival of Flic en Flac’ event the following day (Sunday 1 July 2012) and was celebrated with enthusiastic madness along the coastal road by tourists and locals alike. The procession was characterized by colourful masks and lavish costumes adorning performing artists on exquisitely decorated floats.
High points of the carnival, which celebrates the diversity of Mauritian culture, included a parade of motorcyclists followed by a parade of vintage cars, a bevy of beauty queens from around the world and the antics of Mauritian and Rodriguan artists and samba dancers, as they jubilantly paraded along the crowd-thronged street. The Carnival procession ended with the last float, which had some of the best performers from a Samba School in Brazil and were accompanied by Miss Brazil 2011, Priscila Machado, and Brazilian celebrity Adriana Bombom.
For more information visit: www. carnavaldeflicenflac.com
Mauritius Shopping Fiesta
The Street Carnival celebration in Mauritius marked the kickoff of the Shopping Festival at the Bagatelle Mall of Mauritius, while the Jumbo Phoenix Shopping Centre joined in the festivities by organizing a second launch on Saturday 30 June 2012, which I attended.
The event coincided with the fifth edition of the Winter Heat Fashion Show, which took place during the Fiesta Night, followed by a quiz contest offering prizes to the audience who were also treated to a spectacular performance of jugglers and fire-eaters.
The Minister of Tourism and Leisure, the Honourable Michael Yeung Sik Yuen who was present stated that a wide array of products were available for both Mauritians and visitors, ranging from attractive places of interest on the island, canyoning, water sports, green tourism, rebates offered by hotels, restaurants, and of course in different shopping centres across the country.
In his address, the Chairman of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, Mr. Robert Desvaux appealed to traders to join the Mauritius Shopping Fiesta 2012. An appeal, which from my perspective, fell on deaf ears as I was unable to find a single shop in the Jumbo Phoenix Shopping Centre that was offering any promotional discounts. Apparently it was left to shop owners to decide on how they were going to participate in the shopping fiesta, which appeared to be little more than extending their trading hours. While the MTPA did a sterling job in promoting the event, with over 70 invited international journalists in attendance, they should perhaps consult with their counterparts in Dubai, who are old masters at attracting global shoppers, and convey their lessons learnt to local traders prior to next year’s shopping fiesta. Having said that, the MPTA obviously did an enormous amount of work in getting pre-arranged discounts onboard if their press kit, which lists 97 discounted deals ranging from activities to airlines, hotels and tour operators is anything to go by.
For more information visit: www.mauritiusshoppingfiesta.com
Le Paradis Hotel
Arriving at Beachcomber’s 5-star Paradis Hotel and Golf Club after an exhausting day of sensory overload was a welcome relief. Located along the Le Morne Peninsula, on the island’s South-western tip, the resort is set against the backdrop of the iconic Le Morne Mountain and edges onto one of the most scenic shorelines on the island. Paradis offers an extensive choice of complimentary land and water sports plus the opportunity to play on three championship golf courses in the vicinity, including its own 18-hole international golf course. The hotel also has a golf academy and a Spa by Clarins to cater for moms and dads while their children are kept occupied at the mini-club, which caters for kids aged 3 to 12 in a convivial area located at the heart of the hotel, close to the main areas.
For more information visit: www.paradis-hotel.com
Rhumerie de Chamarel
Our media itinerary included an excursion to the Rhumerie de Chamarel. Situated in the vicinity of the “Coloured Earths of Chamarel”, one of Mauritius’ most popular tourist attractions, the road leading to the Rhumerie is lined with vast plantations of sugar cane growing side by side with pineapples and other tropical fruits. Exuding an inimitable sense of warmth and authenticity, the Rhumerie welcomes guests for an all-encompassing tourism experience, ranging from a guided visit of the distillery and rum tasting to a tasty meal at L’Alchimiste, its own stylish and creative “A la Carte” restaurant.
Highlights of the distillery’s guided tour with professional guides end with the copper stills (alambics) and cellars where the rum is stored to slowly age in barrels. Visitors are then invited to sample some of the products of the distillery, which include white rum, the “coeur de chauffe”, chamarel liquors, exotic-flavoured rums and traditional ‘old’ rum.
For more information visit: www.rhumeriedechamarel.com
Meeting, Incentive, Conferencing and Event (MICE) buyers will find attractive potential in Mauritius as the island has the infrastructure and superstructure to cater for MICE groups, not only during low season but all year round. Mauritius appears to possess all the key ingredients that are required for successful events. The quality and variety of accommodation, the attention to detail in service delivery, state-of-the-art conferencing venues, and the vast number of additional activities on offer all guarantee genuine value for money.
The island offers easy accessibility through its simple visa entry programme and direct access from a large number of destinations through airlines such as Air Mauritius, British Airways and South African Airways. The national carrier, Air Mauritius, operates daily flights from Europe and other destinations.
Mauritius has an advantage over other MICE destinations in the Indian Ocean in that it houses the region’s largest and most modern convention centre: the Swami Vivekananda Conference Centre in Pailles. This centre provides all the facilities needed for large, international conferences – accommodating up to 5,000 people at any one time. Other venues include the International Conference Centre in Grand Bay (up to 600 people) and the Freeport Exhibition in Mer Rouge (up to 1,000 delegates). Many Mauritian hotels also offer conferencing facilities and can cater for up to 800 people at a time.
Mauritius has a lot to offer to the travel and tourism trade in Africa and the MPTA seem more than willing to facilitate enquires from the trade. The Mauritius Carnival and Shopping Fiesta, which is to be an annual event, certainly provides an attraction that travel agents in Africa can tap into.
After a relaxing return flight onboard Mauritius Air I just have to continue berating Mango Air – my domestic return flight from ORTIA to KSIA was deliberately booked for a late departure lest the inbound flight was delayed. On enquiring about an earlier flight departure I paid an exorbitant ticket change fee only to find that my luggage now exceeded their permissible limit. With the airline representative being unaccommodating, I again paid for the extra luggage excess fees, only to have the allocated flight delayed twice due to “technical” problems. As a result I gained a mere half hour against my original flight booking. Perhaps our domestic economy airlines could learn from their international counterparts, such as Emirates who tied-in with the festival by increasing their luggage allowance to 40 kgs.
About the MPTA
The Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) is a parastatal organisation established in 1996 by the MTPA Act. It is administered by a Board of Directors and operates under the aegis of the Ministry of Tourism and Leisure.
For more information visit: www.tourismmauritius.mu
Read this review with images in the digital magazine here.