Why would you travel to this tropical paradise?

This article first appeared in the Malay Mail print edition - By Kazi Mahmood

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Photo Credit: MTPA Mauritius

With its focus on high-end tourism, Mauritius became known for decades as an expensive destination affordable to the leading nations that form part of the G10 top nations.

In this International Monetary Fund’s listing there are the top European nations, and they are the prominent nations providing Mauritius with a steady influx of tourists.

While the number of visitors is climbing, with 2016 figures showing a sharp increase driven by more arrivals from Europe, the country is now trading its beauty and enchantment to Asian visitors.

Targeting Southeast Asia

Tourism is a major business for the tiny Indian Ocean Island awash with the blue sea that glides on its idyllic shores.

The central bank said tourism earnings in 2016 would rise above US$1.6 billion.

Yet the country’s tourism officials are brisk in taking the country above its traditional market range, wooing Malaysians, Singaporeans, Chinese and Indians to come and have a taste of exotic nature of the republic.

For the Europeans and rich Africans, the Indian Ocean island state is best known for its luxury spas, incredible white beaches and shallow waters as well as the plethora of inland activities it now offers.

However, the country’s planners have seen a shift in tourist arrivals in the recent years, with more Middle Eastern visitors embracing the country, thus leading them to ponder on the need to cater for this growing segment.

Thus, the idea of Halal tourism is now explored as part of the new offerings that Mauritius could have for Muslim tourists visiting from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and why not Southeast Asians.

MasterCard-Crescent Rating, in its global Muslim travel index, indicated a growth of 10% in the movements of Muslim travellers across the globe.

This is indicative of a growing trend among Muslims to be involved in tourism activities.

With Mauritius place 73rd in the list of halal tourism, the country sees hope that it can climb the ladder with new plans to attract more Muslims to visit the Enchanted Island.

The study from MasterCard-Crescent Rating shows the number of Muslim tourists rose to 117 million (2015 figures), representing 10% of the total sum of the travel industry worldwide.

They expect the number to rise to 168 million in 2020, which would represent 11 % of the market share from the US$200 billion generated annually from tourism.

Finest Tea Export

Besides the Halal segment, the country is offering tourists a slice of its industrial history with visits to tea plantations that dates back to 1892.

One such attraction is the Bois Chéri, which was the first tea plantation and is the biggest tea producer in Mauritius, which is also a tea exporter.

Visiting the Bois Chéri plantation is the second stop in the Mauritian Tea Route (the first stop is the Domaine des Aubineaux).

The Groupe Saint Aubin chief executive officer (CEO) Eric Guimbeau told Malay Mail the Bois Chéri is a popular tourist attraction and contributes to the success of the age-old brand.

He said the tea itself has a long history that interests the tourists, tempting them to come and try it from its original sources.

Guimbeau said the country now offers a variety of selections of tea, which also attracts tourists from various countries, who gets to know more about the history behind the tea plantations through a museum.

Tourists from Europe, Africa and India visits the site in drones, with their breath taken away by the great panoramic view of the south of the island.

From the tea production and its musuem, the tourists find it attractive to visit the Casela World of Adventures which spans over 250 hectares.

The park is the most visited attraction in Mauritius and the Indian Ocean.

The park management said it offers a heart-throbbing array of adventures to choose from, including an African Safari, unique encounters with big cats, as well as the island’s only dry toboggans and scenic zip lines.

The park now provides you with a unique opportunity to feed giraffes, the colourful lorikeets and even the pygmy hippos.

Located in the western part of Mauritius which is also the only place in the world where you can swim with dolphins in the morning, you can also take a camel safari ride at midday and walk with lions in the afternoon!

Last Stance For Native Species

Outdoor activities for the eco-tourists are a plenty on the Island. Take for example the exotic Black River Gorges National Park.

Lonely Planet boasts that it is the biggest and best national park in Mauritius where you will find a wild expanse of rolling hills and thick forest covering roughly 2% of the island’s surface.

“It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this park – it’s the last stand for Mauritian forests and many native species.

“It’s also the most spectacular corner of the island, so if you make only one day trip from the coast, make it here,” said the largest travel guide book publisher in the world.

And if you want to have a taste of the unusual, the tour operators would want you to have a try at the local SPAs.

Corporate Wellness Anyone?

The country has a very special Wellness Sanctuary at Les Mariannes where you can experience “a life-enriching healthy holiday dedicated to health and wellness, re-aligning your body and spirit to your original vibrations,” said Dr Siddick Maudarbocus.

Speaking to Malay Mail, Maudarbocus said Mauritius has all the ingredients as a wellness destination- good all year round weather, nice beaches, safe social climate and stability.

“We have the 2 big cultures of the world in Mauritius – The Chineese and Indian cultures, who have given us the greatest traditional systems of healing in the world.

Maudarbocus said the centre does its promotions on a private level, but government helps by assisting with participation at international fairs and so on.

“We have some grant that allows us to fund -overseas participation in promoting our business.

Photo Credit: Les Mariannes Wellness

“The MTPA also helps us to gain visibility on the international scene,” he said.

The doctor said the Wellness is different from the usual spa and wellness centers, going- we go more for in-depth and personalised medical approach and it also offers corporate wellness.

Overall he said, Mauritius is a great destination for the businessmen as well, as there are lots of opportunities around coupled with an educated workforce.

“The official govt agencies do a lot for facilitation of foreign investors through the Bank of Mauritius.

“All our professionals are highly qualified (accountants, lawyers, financial consultants and others) and deliver a world class service to investors,” Maudarbocus told Malay Mail.

This article was made possible through the efforts by the Tourism Promotion Association, a non-profit organization engaged in supporting travel and tourism in Mauritius.

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