Tourist arrivals to Mauritius tops 1.3million, surpassing its population size

2018-03-19 09:56 - Suren Naidoo
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Johannesburg - The small Indian Ocean nation of Mauritius, which has a population of under 1.3 million people, attracted just over 1.34 million tourists to the island last year. It means Mauritius had another record year of tourism arrivals, with visitors topping the 1.3 million mark for the first time in 2017.

This is according to stats from the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA), which shows tourist arrivals increased by 5.2% last year. The country’s tourism industry performed better than Statistics Mauritius’ prediction in 2016, that tourism arrivals would grow by 4.3%. Back in 2010 Mauritius had less the a million tourists a year.

As a mainstay sector of the Mauritian economy, tourism is a key source of hard currency for the island nation. The Bank of Mauritius had forecast tourism earnings of 59 billion rupees for 2017, but this is likely to be higher due to better than expected tourist arrivals.

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South Africa is amongst the top five tourism source markets for Mauritius. France and the United Kingdom, which has both had colonial control of Mauritius, are the country’s two top tourism source markets. They are followed by tourists from Mauritian neighbours Reunion Island, and Germany, with South Africa coming in fifth spot.

According to the MTPA, South Africa was the second best source market for arrivals to the island in December 2017, behind France. More than 20 800 South Africans visited Mauritius in December, up 6.3% compared to December 2016.

This saw South African tourist arrivals for the full 2017 year to Mauritius totalling 112 129, which represented a 7% increase over 2016. Of the total 1,341 860 tourists that travelled to the island in 2017, South Africa made up 8.4% of the total. The growth in South Africans travelling to Mauritius has continued into this year, with January figures showing that 7 196 South Africans holidayed on the island. This is an increase of 10.3% compared to last year.

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“Mauritius is a favourite holiday destination for South African travellers… With international travel and tourism cited as a key economic driver in Mauritius to create jobs, grow the economy and get local communities to prosper, this is all good news,” the MTPA said in a statement.

Speaking to the SABC in the capital Port Louis on Wednesday, following Mauritius marking its milestone 50th year of Independence from Britain, Mauritian Tourism Minister, Anil Kumar Gayan said he expects tourism arrivals from South Africa to “do even better” buoyed by confidence around Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as president.

“I am a bit disappointed that the numbers from South Africa are not higher. We used to have many more South Africans coming here in the past. I believe because of the value of the rand going down a number of South Africans did not come to Mauritius. But, now the situation in South Africa is improving and the rand is also increasing in value, I’m sure that lots more South Africans will come,” he said.

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Gayan said the two nations has had a close association that goes back a long time and that South Africa was a key tourism market for Mauritius. “We consider South Africa as our big brother, and big brothers need to visit their small brothers,” he joked.

In a strong endorsement for the idyllic Indian Ocean island as a hot holiday destination, Mauritius has made it into the Top 10 countries to visit in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018.

Mauritius requires no visa for South African travellers and is a four-hour flight from South Africa, with flights departing from all three of SA’s major international airports in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.

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