Blog: Tourists and Tourism in Mauritius
One has to go only a few years back when Mauritius known as the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’ has been boasting itself as one of the best havens for tourists, coming from all over the world. Tourism has been booming and continues doing so to some extent till present day. But one wonders, for how long tourism is going to hold its well-earned reputation under the present climate of increasing crimes in Mauritius?
One has to continuously review and evaluate from all fronts, both internal and external, factors that are threatening its very survival. While this is a very vast topic, much beyond my personal scope of understanding, I can only address what I can observe in Mauritius as an ordinary citizen. It is not unknown to us, either through reading newspapers or watching television to learn the amount of robbery, looting, rape, often murder, break in, deceptions and various other types of subtle crimes taking place both in the compound of the hotels as well as on the sea resorts, city centres and almost anywhere tourists are found. In this respect, it would not be an exaggeration to say that, perhaps, Mauritius is fast approaching a ‘danger zone for tourists’.
The recent unfortunate case of Michaela Hart in Legend hotel, the three cases of break in into the hotel rooms and robbery at Casuarina hotel in just one night, robbery in Le Meridien, robbery and attack upon an Australian elderly lady at knife point, alleged case of rape of the South African lady in the security of her own hotel room, looting of personal belongings of tourists on beaches, pick-pocketing in city centres and many other crimes are all daily reminders to us of the likely fate of tourism in the impending future.
When we talk about tourism one tends to think of mainly large posh hotels and places of attractions, like of Casilla, Crocodile park and Pamplemousses garden. But tourism is a very vast all pervasive industry affecting almost every walk of our daily community life; to just name a few, such as air travels, travel agency/tour operators, transports, restaurants, places of attractions and such things as fast foods, artisan, consumer goods, beauty parlour, sport centres, etc. The list is almost endless. The impact this can have upon the livelihood of those directly or indirectly involved is unimaginable in the wake of possible tourist decline, least to say upon the whole nation. It is a report only just came out about loss of profits tourist industry suffered through tourist decline from European countries which are currently undergoing financial crisis. One of the many factors of this threat at home is the immoral actions of a handful of rogues hell bent to topple the very structure of this industry and, hence, Mauritius economy.
But one wonders: How can it be that these mindless morons who are among the lowest of the low in society, driven by personal greed and lusts, can resort to topple such a giant of an industry? Well, if this is difficult to imagine, let the story of the little aunt getting into the ear of the elephant and causing it to fall on the ground or David and Goliath remind us. Mauritius, like any other nations, is not immune from the watchful eyes of the world. Affluent nations such as European countries, USA and many others have very vested interest into the safety and security of their citizens going abroad on holidays. The consulates and tourist representatives of these nations find it their fundamental duty to inform their respective citizens where it is safe to go on holidays and where there is cause for concern. Should it not, then, be a cause of concern for the government of Mauritius and Mauritians as a whole? While there is no doubt in my mind that Mauritius government must be concerned and taking this very seriously, it has not been more important ever before than now for immediate action to tackle this protracted problem. It is too well known that it takes centuries to build a castle but only matters of seconds to bring it down. I should argue that security of tourists visiting the island and bringing in much needed resources does not rest solely upon the shoulders of top hotels with dotted cameras and security guards but fundamentally the government of Mauritius. Until something is not done as a matter of urgency it may well be too late to claim boastfully that Mauritius remains a ‘safe haven for tourists’. We do not have to wait too long then before the bell starts ringing into the ear for a wake-up call to find oneself having missed the bus.
Tourist related crimes are fast infiltrating inland too, among the local inhabitants, specially in the tourist zones. One is not surprised to hear frequent reports of rapes, drugs abuse, prostitutions and robbery in these localities. One such example is the recent case of robbery and rape in Albion, murder and rape in Grand Baie or hold up and robbery in Post La Fayette beach, just to name a few. One begins to wonder who is safe within the boundary of his/her four walls. People in every corner of the island are terrified and advising friends and loved ones not to travel after dusk for fear of attack on roads. The main target is often the tourists by organised gangs of robbers and rogues. It appears that people have enforced a self-imposed curfew after dark and the whole country is held in ransom by a handful. It is sad to witness such a small previously peaceful island to such level of lowliness and lawlessness. But it appears, as though, this is not enough in way of tourist oppression.
One is also beginning to wonder views some members of the public beginning to hold towards tourists and statements of incriminations, often with unjustifiable animosity and jealousy; regarding them as though they are some sort of outer space aliens with silver spoons in their mouths having descended to invade the island, to put it crudely. We should realise that our daily bread is dependent on tourism, if I want to be frank and honest. Nothing had infuriated me more than a recent article publicized in one of the Mauritian papers, covertly suggesting that it has become common practice among tourists to report loss of personal properties to the police for the purposes of claiming easy money from Insurance companies once they are back into their own countries. I have read nothing more absurd than this in the media. This is a damming statement yet again against the tourists in general and tourist industry. One needs to realise that Mauritius, given its size and strategic location can only attract high ranking tourists with its 4 or 5 star hotels. While I am not denying that false isolated claims may well be taking place in the second or third rating touristic countries elsewhere this is highly unlikely in Mauritius, given the calibre of tourists visiting the island.
Other hidden and unrecognisable crimes are the degree of covert robbery or deception taking place against tourists who are new to the place and unfamiliar to local way of life and culture. This is translated in way of some resorting to deceive tourists by over-charging of their services or seizing opportunity to overprice goods for a quick extra buck. These are all factors, not unknown to public, degree of crimes being inflicted on tourists and the tourist industry. Perhaps much has been left untold. There is a dire need for a careful assessment and evaluation of this problem by the ministry of Tourism and the need for implementing a robust strategy to tackling crimes on tourism and in general.
I would like to end, however, by concluding that tourism, as the backbone of Mauritian economy, is the responsibility of every member of the community alongside police, government and tourist industry to fight for a common cause.