The statement was made by the Prime Minister at the foundation stone laying ceremony for a new development project at Casela Nature and Leisure Park on 15 February.
According to Dr Ramgoolam, Mauritius should be in a position to get a bigger slice of the fast expanding economy of tourism which he said, is an industry worth 1 trillion US dollars. World tourism is expanding fast despite the recession with an increase of 4% in 2012 and the number of tourists worldwide passing one billion for the first time. The World Tourism Organisation, added the Prime Minister, is predicting continued growth of 3 to 4 % in 2013 while prospects for Africa stand at an increase of 4 to 6 %. He recalled the slight rise in tourist arrivals in 2012 as compared to 2011 for Mauritius, highlighting the growing figures from China (44.1 %) and India (5.5%). Citing the example of Maldives which last year welcomed some 200 000 tourists from China, Dr Ramgoolam said that Mauritius have to look East, at China and India, where economies are growing fast and people want to travel.
The Prime Minister stated that coastal resorts and lagoons will always remain the mainstay of our tourism industry but “we have to diversify our products and portfolio such as opening up the hinterland of the island and create new activities which will be central to the policy of increasing the number of tourists arrival”. Dr Ramgoolam called on the tourism sector to capitalise on our unique assets namely our natural capacity to welcome visitors, our much cited peaceful multicultural society and our multilingual abilities. First class service, adequate and happy workforce, continuous training, security and not charging exorbitant prices so as not to be priced out of the market, are some of the other measures that the Prime Minister said were prerequisites for the success of the tourism industry.
Speaking on the concept of democratisation of the economy, the Prime Minister stated that we must ensure that we have the spin-offs of the tourism sector and called for a better management of the supply chain in order to give opportunities to small and medium enterprises and enable those working in the surrounding villages to gain from the industry. “Democratisation means allowing more people to participate and become, more importantly stakeholders, in the country,” he said.
The Prime Minister also pledged his continued support to the tourism industry, as demonstrated by the construction of the new airport terminal which will cater for bigger aeroplanes in the like of the Airbus A380, new development at the port and the resumption of the direct flights to Shanghai. On the issue of air access policy, Dr Ramgoolam pointed out that there has been a significant opening of our skies and that it was up to the various airlines to make use of our expanded air access policy. He added that Air Mauritius is in the process of deciding on a strategic partner and this endeavour is expected to bring about a rise in the number of destinations as well as a rationalisation of the routes. The Prime Minister urged the national airline to restore its first class service in order to attract more passengers.
Commending the initiative of the Medine Group for the transformation of Casela into a leisure park that will be unique in the region, Dr Ramgoolam said that the project is impressive with an investment of some Rs 1 billion, and is a perfect fit in the overall strategy to promote ecotourism and to diversify the economy.