Blog: Tourism Mantra
There is a general feeling that something is wrong with our tourism. It is being battered. It is going through difficult times as an outcome of the world financial and economic crisis. It is a sector which brings billions of rupees of revenue in foreign exchange, provide jobs to thousands, ranging from taxi drivers to CEOs, massive investment, both foreign and local.
The God-given gifts of sea, sand and sun have attracted the bulk of tourists from the whole world, particularly from Europe and Reunion Island. All the prime locations are State-owned. They have been cornered by the big boys, both foreign and local. It is a matter of pride that our local entrepreneurs could diversify from sugar and invest heavily in this sector matching the foreign ones at all levels.
In other countries, the small and medium enterprises are not neglected. They grow side by side and form an integral part of the system. Unfortunately here this is not so yet. Only recently, the sector was being recognized. The investment comes from the savings of small entrepreneurs. Government has set up a mechanism to regulate this sector by providing appropriate licenses to hotels, guest houses, restaurants, boat operators and even hawkers. But do you know that it is the only sector where the fine is 100% for late payment of licenses whereas it is only 50% for all other licenses for late payment?
Mauritius is sold as a high quality destination at the rate of chartered flight passengers. Chartered flights are not allowed to operate except for certain occasions, but chartered flights do land at Reunion Island and the passengers cross over to Mauritius.
The main restrictive barrier to our growth is our air access policy. It is too restrictive and biased in favor of Air Mauritius. The interests of Air Mauritius do not necessarily mean national interest. The ideal should be that they should converge. Even in a country like India where there has been always a strong opposition for foreign investment in sectors like retail trade and airlines, government has decided to open up these sectors for foreign investment. It is more or less a sine qua non for the survival and development of tourism and trade.
But we should beware that loss making companies are not salvaged from public funds and profitable ones sold to private and foreign investors.
The Tourism Authority and the MTPA have done a good job. Today there is a consensus that a total overhauling of these organizations should take place. A new focus is required with perhaps new men who understand new markets like China and India.
Do you know the difficulty restaurant and hotel owners face to get work permits for cooks? Chinese and Indians prefer to travel to places where food to their taste and according to their culture and religious beliefs is available. Have we gauged the potential of specialized segments, cultural and religious and vegetarian tourism?
Only recently we have discovered the potential of fat Indian weddings where plane loads of guests arrive together with their cooks and waiters and hundreds of millions of rupees per event. I know of Indian families who travel with their cooks and maids to Mauritius.
Shiv Khera, the management guru who will be soon in Mauritius always tells the story of the taxi driver on his first visit to Singapore. On reaching his destination, the taxi driver claimed a lesser amount than the ones displayed on the meter. The taxi driver explained that by mistake he had taken a longer route, so the passenger should not pay for his mistake. It is with such honest attitude that Singapore attracts more than five million tourists yearly.
We had such an attitude, but the image is fast deteriorating with the perception that tourists should be exploited even raped and killed. I believed it is not too late to recover from the battering. There is a beautiful saying “Athithi Devo Bhava” – the guest is God. This is the tourism mantra we should adopt.