Arvind Bundhun, Director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, sees Africa as the future of Mauritian tourism.
Mauritius will continue to benefit from its strong relationship with France and the UK, and the emerging Asian market. However, tapping in to the opportunities that Intra-African tourism can bring is part of Arvind’s vision for steady and consistent growth in the Mauritian tourism industry.
Africa only enjoys a 5% share of global tourist arrivals and 3% of global tourism revenue, which brings 37bn USD in receipts. There is significant scope for improvement. In this interview, Arvind highlights the potential for dual destination marketing, where countries like Mauritius and Kenya can work together to offer unique experiences.
Where tourism goes, trade follows. The prospect of stronger collaboration between Africa’s great tourism destinations is an exciting one.
Intra-African tourism is also on the rise as Africa’s emerging middle class becomes increasingly open to exploring the continent.
Mauritius has 14% market share in visitor numbers from South Africa , and the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority is now looking to attract visitors from across the continent.
AfricaLive: You have been Director here at Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) for almost one year now, how did it come about?
Mr Arvind Bundhun: I joined MTPA from the private sector; I was headhunted and asked to take this position.
I have been working in the hotel industry for the last twenty years after graduating from hotel school in Austria. I have travelled quite a bit and seen various destinations around the world before taking this opportunity here.
AfricaLive: What was the motivation for you to take up this challenge?
Mr Arvind Bundhun: I have always been selling hotels. The only difference is now I am selling the destination.
The motivation is to sell the country. I was confident that I could do it. I have followed the development of how Mauritius has been marketed very carefully.
It is a massive challenge for a young person. It is a new vision. Gone are the days when selling a destination was simple. Twenty years ago you could take one celebrity, take some pictures with them, and run a promotional campaign in their market. It worked.
Today we are living in a digital world, and the whole process has changed with technology.
Although, Mauritius is quite a specific market. We welcome 1.4 million tourists per year. Surprisingly, 65% of our bookings come from tour operators. It is still a tour operator dominated market. When I came in to office one of the first strategies I put in place was to ensure that we no longer neglected the tour operators. We returned to focusing on a B2B marketing approach and valuing those relationships.
The industry has survived in Mauritius because the heart of the industry is people. Nowadays, you can find destinations with coconut trees and beaches everywhere. The people and the culture are the heart of this destination.
AfricaLive: I think many would agree it was time to bring some fresh ideas to the tourism industry. We have noticed feeling that the Mauritian brand has perhaps stagnated in recent years.
In 2018 you achieved a 4.3% growth in visitor numbers. Q1 of 2019 has seen a reversal of some of that growth, however. How do you believe the brand is performing?
Mr Arvind Bundhun: This year has been challenging. We knew last year that 2019 was going to be challenging.
Given our position as a small country in the middle of the Indian Ocean, accessibility is vital for us. All of our traditional major markets are suffering from problems. In the UK you have Brexit, in France and China there have been problems, and we have had changes to the flight and some airlines not flying during certain parts of the year. It all has an impact.
I do not think there is any problem with the destination at all. Not at all.
However, I do think we should start thinking of marketing Mauritius differently.
Mauritius is not simply an island.
It is a “Beyond Beach” destination.
It is this melting pot of culture, traditions, religion, ethnicity, gastronomy, eco-tourism, it is a sustainable tourism destination.
Of course, we can’t forget the fact that we have pristine beaches. However, we have much more than that, and we have to target the millennial audience now who are looking for different experiences. I think Mauritius is the perfect destination for that.
AfricaLive: I know you have experienced significant growth in visitor numbers from South Africa over recent years. How important is the African market for you?
Mr Arvind Bundhun: South Africa is such an important market for us; we are experiencing double-digit growth from there.
Mauritus has 14% market share in terms of arrivals from South Africa.
Africa is increasingly important. Previously we had focused mainly on South Africa and maybe neglected other parts of the continent, but since last year Kenya Airways has come in with five flights per week. With Kenya Airways and Air Mauritius flying from the continent, we are developing various strategies for growth.
You have around 1 million Europeans who come to Kenya for safari. It is possible for Mauritius to provide an extension to that trip and bring those Europeans here for a different experience. We are looking at the possibility of dual destination marketing, which is something the tourism industry is having a lot of success with around the world.
Secondly, you have a growing market from Kenya itself and other African countries such as Botswana. We have been targeting these markets with more roadshows and high visibility campaigns.
My objective is to grow the market consistently. We are not looking for sudden leaps; it must be consistent.
AfricaLive: The target has been set for Mauritius to attract 2m tourists per year by 2030.
Mr Arvind Bundhun: Yes, which would allow consistent growth of 3%. This is what we want to achieve as per the strategic plan.
AfricaLive: What does success look like for you over the coming five years?
Mr Arvind Bundhun: If we can achieve a constant growth of 3 to 4%, then that would be a success.
It is not just a question of attracting numbers; it is a question of attracting quality tourism that will have a certain respect for the destination.
Mauritius is a luxury destination. We showcase luxury, but we have to develop slowly and naturally to ensure we protect the natural resources that we have.
In Mauritius, we don’t have gold, or diamonds, or copper, we have the natural beauty and resources of the country and we must protect that first.
We must also stop obsessing completely over numbers. You mentioned earlier the drop in numbers this year, which is around 1% over three months. In the grand scheme of things, this is nothing. Our focus is on attracting quality partners and quality tourism to the country.