20 November 2017

Note: This article first appeared on Lexpress. Written by Roma Brijmohun.

300 million. This is the record number of international tourist arrivals in July and August 2017, according to the World Tourism Barometer, recently published by the World Tourism Organization. According to this report, the Africa region - including Mauritius and Seychelles in particular - is ahead of all others, with a growth rate of 9%. In North Africa, the increase is 14%; while in sub-Saharan Africa, it stabilized at 5%.

Moreover, according to the latest data from Statistics Mauritius, from January to October 2017, tourism increased by 5.3% in Mauritius. The Africa zone represents 23% of arrivals and jumped 4.7% with 10,920 more tourists over the same period. A market that is likely to grow, according to the hoteliers. Like Ramesh Mawood, Sales Executive at Beachcomber Resorts & Hotels, who notes "indeed a growth in the number of customers coming from African countries, like Kenya or Tanzania".

Interviewed, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Association of Hoteliers and Restorers of Mauritius (AHRIM), Jocelyn Kwok, says, for its part, that "there is an excellent African clientele in our hotel establishments, already knowing Maurice for years and who comes back regularly." Before adding that this type of customers is of course limited in number.

In addition to tourists from South Africa, Jocelyn Kwok discusses the challenge of tourism on the African continent. "Each country on the continent is a different market." The Africa zone actually has about 50 countries for a population of about 1.2 billion inhabitants.

The CEO of AHRIM tells us that if it is possible to develop this market in a sustainable way, certain key elements will have to be ensured. In particular, the capacity of the destination, the air connectivity, the competitiveness of the Mauritius offer and the return on investment for each stakeholder.

Three-star accommodation

Mauritius attracts tourists and investors from the Africa zone thanks to its openning visa policy . Of 36 African countries analyzed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development , it is in the top ten. A steady increase in visitors from Southern Africa Developpement Community Member States and the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa is testimony to this.

However, "there is still a little way to go for the countries of the African continent to face the stronger, more accessible potential of other markets" says the CEO of AHRIM. Visa procedures, for example, hinder the free movement of Africans.

For its part, the International Air Transport Association forecasts an annual growth of 5.7% of air traffic for the Africa zone until 2035. This would suggest, in the future, an increase of jobs in the sectors of the aviation as well as tourism. Moreover, Air Mauritius regularly serves the Africa zone and innovates with direct flights to new cities like Dar es Salaam.

Ramesh Mawood decrypts, him, some trends of this still unknown clientele. Very demanding, the tourists of these new African origins opt rather for the accommodation of type three stars and the hotels of charm, underlines it. These are mainly leisure travel couples and honeymooners .

Our interlocutor adds that "it is not a customer 'beach'. During their stay, African tourists are particularly fond of cultural tourism and discovery. They favor the shopping and take advantage of it to discover the numerous tourist sites of the destination". There are also many businessmen and representatives of organizations who may be seeking specific services such as seminars.

On the Food and Beverages side , the Beachcomber Hotels and Resorts group says they are adapting by offering varied menus and including halal meat, required by visitors from North Africa. Ramesh Mawood notes, however, the small number of families, "the main reason being the considerable budget" of airline tickets. Moreover, this same reason would limit the demand for standard four-star or five-star services.

291 890

This is the number of tourists from the Africa zone who visited Mauritius in 2016. They come mainly from Reunion (58%), South Africa (37%) and Madagascar (4%). In addition, the country is attracting more and more people from other countries such as Seychelles, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Nigeria, Mayotte.

Big data in tourism

In addition, tourism professionals believe that the advent of "Big Data" will greatly reduce administrative procedures and facilitate access to electronic ticketing. Thus, the development of the African tourism segment remains very promising as infrastructure, air connectivity and technological resources converge towards this common goal.

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