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Old June 20th, 2005, 02:48 AM   #1
Hong Kong
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Mauritius Ventures into Duty-Free Tourism

Duty-free and cruise ambitions set to fuel tourist market
17 June 2005
Lloyd's List

THE main island of Mauritius is volcanic in origin and almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs.

With many travellers keen to experience the island’s unique melting pot culture, spectacular beaches, world-class hotels and crystal clear lagoons, this island paradise is fast gaining worldwide recognition.

With the Indian Ocean cruise market booming and a local tourism market ripe for expansion, the government has launched plans to turn Mauritius into a duty-free zone. With plans for the new world-class passenger terminal at Les Salines, the tourism market is becoming one of the strongest pillars of the local economy.

From the records of the Central Statistics Bureau there has been a 7.1% increase in tourism in the first quarter of 2005 compared with a year ago.

In the government’s budget for 2005-06 the first stone was laid to transform the island into a “shopper’s paradise” by making luxury items duty-free. It is estimated that there will be a 3.8% growth in shopping malls and about 7.8% growth in the hotel and restaurant sector.

This means more employment growth, with many outlets opening principally duty-free shops.

A new cruise terminal completed in 2002 is used mainly for regional passenger traffic between neighbouring islands Réunion, Rodrigues and Tamatave.

The amenity was designed to handle 300 passengers at once and allowed for future passenger growth.

Inter-island traffic from Rodrigues is expected to increase by 1% annually while passenger traffic from Réunion expects a more dramatic increase.

On an international level, it is the proposed new state-of-the-art terminal at Les Salines that will help to attract leading cruise lines.

Plans for the world-class terminal include hotels, shopping malls and leisure facilities and involves waterfront development on the inner harbour.

A cross-harbour bridge, meant to alleviate congestion problems in the city, is still under consideration.

With Mauritius Port Authority playing an active role in the Cruise Indian Ocean Association to attain 1% of the world cruise market in the short term and a 2% share in the long term, massive increases in cruise traffic are anticipated.

This could result in an estimated 80,000 passengers for the region if the 1% target is reached.

With Mauritius looking to grab 25% of this market the island could be looking at around 20,000 passengers and 40 ship calls in the short term. The MPA estimates that a 5% growth rate willfollow.

While the tourist market is being heavily courted, Captain Jean Patrick Rault of the Mauritius Shipping Company believes that protection of region’s environment also needs to be considered.

He would like to see “restricted access to certain small islands off Mauritius and better policies regarding beach erosion in areas of the island such as Flic en Flac which is much appreciated by everyone”.

With its famous hospitality, endless sunshine and sandy white beaches there is no doubt that Mauritius is set to become a big tourist destination and a main competitor to favoured winter destinations such as the Gulf and Red Sea resorts.
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