Purposeful explorations

Mauritius tourism stakeholders are crafting authentic destination experiences that take travellers right into the heart of the local community and environment.

Beyond its postcard-worthy beaches, Mauritius’ tourism direction to aid recovery is to promote authentic travel experiences from meaningful connections with local communities, apart from implementing safety protocols to ensure travellers’ peace of mind, tourism stakeholders told TTG Asia.

The Lux Collective, a global hotel operator which manages brands including the LUX* Resorts & Hotels, utilised the downtime to rethink its strategy and worked with its properties to come up with immersive experiences. That effort birthed Collectable Experiences, which is designed to engage purposefully with the local community and destinations it operates in, shared Julian Hagger, executive vice president.

Mauritius offers stunning views; Le Morne Brabant pictured

Hagger said: “People are looking for immersive experiences that gives them a sense of belonging, a glimpse into the local way of living that will not only enrich the traveller’s life but also the life of the community we are privileged to be a small part of when we travel.”

Guests can look forward to hosting an eco-conscious wedding, fishing and donating their catch to the local community, and contributing to one of Earth’s most endangered ecosystems by planting a mangrove tree on an islet off the mainland.

Beachcomber Resorts & Hotels is another hospitality player focused on “creating experiences that are meaningful, unique and convey authenticity”.

Citing an example, Karine Perrier Curé, chief brand & communication officer, said young guests are encouraged to experience the daily work of a bartender, concierge, chef or receptionist during their stay. The experience is part of a newly-launched kids-centric initiative.

Tours and activity operators in Mauritus are moving in the same direction too. Victoria Rose, sales executive of local DMC Hello Islands, reckons that the industry is preparing itself to meet the demands of new and younger travellers who are “now looking for individual experiences and a better contact with the local environment.”

Think cultural discoveries such as food and cycle tours in historical villages. Fred Ng, director of sales, Happy Planet, concurred that new tourism offerings in Mauritius are now centred on the local community and leverage the picturesque island’s rich history, culture, as well as ocean and environment.

Through its Care Me programme, Happy Planet assists families adversely affected by the pandemic by encouraging tourists to gift books, stationery, clothes and schoolbags to the local children. Its tours also patronise local businesses, such as food and coconut stalls.

With safety being a paramount concern among travellers today, DMCs must now add to their service offerings by providing their guests with updates on safety measures, opined Ng. As such, Happy Planet now helps guests to arrange required PCR tests.

Indeed, “showcasing Mauritius as a premium and safe tourism destination” was central in the pivotal MauritiusNOW campaign carried out to boost tourism recovery.

Arvind Bundhun, director of Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, said the campaign’s site and live cameras beamed to a global audience showed how Mauritius continues to teem with life.

“Over time, the MauritiusNOW microsite has evolved and recalibrated, and is now an integral asset in the overall marketing and communication mix,” he added.

“The key axes of the resumption strategy were accelerated digital transition, collaborative approach through regular meetings with stakeholders, engaging with the right market segments, trade support, joint promotion with airlines and tour operators, and participation in tourism fairs to reconnect with the travel trade,” detailed Bundhun.

Additionally, a huge fam trip was also organised for participants from all key markets to explore the island first-hand.

Apart from adapting the MauritiusNOW campaign to boost demand for the upcoming Easter and low season from May to September, enhanced air connectivity is also crucial to accelerate Mauritius’ tourism resumption.

Visitor arrivals in the last travel peak season, from October to December 2021, are showing encouraging signs of recovery.

In 4Q2021, 180,000 tourists visited Mauritius. The figure could be higher if not for the disruptive Omicron wave.

According to Bundhun, marketing activities implemented in key targeted markets have bolstered demand – France, the UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Eastern Europe are all progressing with good momentum. A target of 650,000 by July 2022 is set, subject to conducive airlift conditions.

The Mauritius tourism sector has been on a standstill since March 2020 until October 1 last year. Vaccinated guests have been allowed into the country without restrictions, subject to negative PCR test results obtained 72 hours prior to embarkation.

Things are definitely looking up with South African borders re-opening, and as from January this year, flights to Mauritius are increasing gradually towards pre-Covid levels. Air Mauritius is planning to increase flight frequencies on its India routes, while Saudi Arabia is expected to recommence flights with Mauritius from April 2022.

Ng said: “Feedback from first-time visitors have been excellent, with many recommending our country as a safe and enjoyable holiday destination to their friends and relatives.

“With more focus on authentic experiences, returning visitors are finding more things to explore and experience (while they are here).”

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