A report recently released by international market research firm Research and Markets shows only marginal growth in domestic tourist volumes in Mauritius, which are expected to rise at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 0.31% over the five-year forecast period, to reach 1 million by 2018.

Titled Travel and Tourism in Mauritius to 2018, the report observes that the tourism industry has developed into a major pillar of economic development in Mauritius, which is however, increasingly feeling the heat of intense competition in the international tourism industry.

After a significant downfall in 2009 due to the Eurozone crisis, given that the European market was the key source market of Mauritius, massive promotional campaigns were undertaken by the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA), in order to make Mauritius shift from its traditional market to emerging ones such as China and India.

Promoting Mauritius as a prime holiday island destination was really fruitful, as an increase in the number of visitors were registered, with 993,106 visitors coming to Mauritius in 2013 against 965,441 in 2012. However, tourism earnings for the year 2013 showed a decline at Rs 40,557 million, down by 8.6 % from Rs 44,378 million in 2012.

Taking a closer look at the emerging markets, the report observes that tourism arrivals from India increased by 3.7% from 55,197 to 57,255; Chinese visitors doubled from 20,885 to 41,913; while Russian footfalls decreased by 23.3% from 19,429 to 14,905.

Furthermore, according to the Tourism Office of Mauritius, South African tourists surpassed UK visitors in 2012, taking third place in total tourist volumes to Mauritius.

In total, 94,208 South Africans visited Mauritius in 2013, compared with a total of 89,058 tourists in 2012.

Moreover, in order to attract more South African tourists, Mauritius is implementing more hardy activities such as parachuting, mountain excursions, quad biking and sea diving, as South Africans have shown interest in adventure-based tourism.

Worryingly, room occupancy rates in Mauritius followed an uneven trend during the review period.

Impacted by the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis, which led to a decline in demand from the European travelers, the occupancy rate declined from 68.0% in 2008 to 61.0% in 2009.

But, a recovery was seen in the following years, with occupancy rate increasing to 65.0% in 2011.

However, driven by an excessive increase in the supply of hotel rooms (at a rate of 5.0%) in 2012, the occupancy rate declined again in the same year, to reach 62.0%. A smoothening in occupancy rates is expected over the forecast period.

Finally, the report noted that car rental companies in Mauritius operate in a highly competitive market, where average daily rates lie between Rs 800.0 (USD 28.1) to Rs 2,500 (USD 87.9), depending on the number of rental days and brand of car. Local and small car rental companies offer cars for as little as Rs 500 (USD 17.6) as the aim is to survive and perhaps, even succeed, in a highly competitive environment.

Thus, with all these changes in the coming future the government must take the initiative to develop new infrastructure, implement more tourism-related projects and adopt various methods to promote domestic tourism in order to increase domestic tourist volumes.

Image (African Markets): A smoothening in occupancy rates is expected over the forecast period of 2014-2018, although occupancy rates have declined over the past 2 years, in the backdrop of excessive room supply.

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