The Tourism Industry is Worried

Opening of borders

We are flooded with questions from our esteemed tour operators and clients, inquiring about the opening of the Mauritius borders. There is a total confusion of the tentative date as there exists no effective communication established between the authorities and the industry as a whole meaning not with selective stakeholders only. The ability to communicate clearly is fundamental. Communication is the most important of all business skills and should not be overlooked. Its simplest form would have been to transfer information by an official communique.

What have we gathered so far?

Latest official information on Coronavirus (Covid-19) mentioned that “the Prime Minister would accordingly make an Order under section 3(1)(a) of the Quarantine Act 2020 to prohibit the entry of aircrafts and ships in Mauritius as from 12 June 2020 until 31 August 2020, except for those aircrafts and ships as may be approved by the Prime Minister”.

The MTPA wrote on their website on 15 June 2020, “We are incredibly proud to announce that Mauritius is now COVID-FREE. We are humbled that the @wttc has recognised the efforts put in by Mauritian authorities and communities in the fight against #Covid19, and has thus labelled Mauritius as a #SafeDestination. Since March, Mauritius has faced the #coronavirus pandemic with #unwavering commitment. Today, we look forward to welcoming visitors again as we prepare to reopen our borders…”

On 27 July 2020, the DPM and Minister of Lands and Housing and Tourism, Steven Obegadoo, said “We are by your side”. He is aware of the anxieties of employees and operators of the tourism industry. He reiterated that the government is working diligently to open borders and restart the industry while taking into account the evolution of the pandemic in the world. The opening of the borders will be done in stages, specified the number 2 of the government. First, the state must focus on Mauritians who are stranded abroad, as well as the diaspora who wish to return home, he said. There are also those who hold a "Resident Permit" or "Occupational Permit". added the DPM. The second step will be the opening of borders and the return of tourists. But when and how? That’s the whole point said Steven Obeegadoo.

Since then, we have been gratified by the interviews of worried CEOs, business owners and industry operators, local and foreign media and international tour operators as a whole. Rightly so. Equally right, some high-powered people don't want the border opened, fearing tourists will bring infected people along. So, if we continue to lock the Island down, we shall certainly all die in good health, or if we open and the population do not take the necessary sanitary measures seriously, we shall all be contaminated!!!

This is where we are up to these days, the opening of the borders is still under study. The government is still working on a Protocol to be implemented. In the meantime, Seychelles, Maldives and other destinations have started to welcome back tourists. Our tourism industry, reeling from more than five months of lockdown, remains in the dark as to when to expect any hope of recovery. The whole sector is choked and stakeholders are urging the authorities to open the borders. Obviously, It is absolutely vital that adequate sanitary planning and protocols are set to, without comprising the health requirements and the economy. It must be clear once and for all that tourists who will buy an expensive ticket for a long-haul flight will not go into confinement in a hotel.

And please, by all means, let us not try to copy Barbados, inviting visitors to work from its beaches during the pandemic, The Barbados Welcome Stamp gives international visitors the opportunity to work remotely on the island for up to a year. Being a remote Island, important in the equation is our national airline and other airlines. In any case, this concept will only attract a minimum of visitors not enough to give the slightest oxygen to the industry. The success of a tourist destination depends on the regular arrival of a number of visitors, and the effects of their activities while they stay there. We need an urgent plan to operate within a national risk landscape to remain resilient in the face of the Covid-19 threat. It is critical to an economy that relies heavily on tourism.

SUS Island

The name sounds wrong, exclaimed most of the tourism professionals. The Association of Communication Agencies of Mauritius (ACA), has strong reservations about the use of the slogan name "SUS Island" in the communication and marketing initiatives of our tourism industry in international markets. "Ill-inspired and clumsy, and that the appellation of the project should be reviewed as soon as possible”.

A brand must not be changed just for the sake of changing. Mauritius is Mauritius. No need to look far for branding and copy.  We need a brand to show that we care for the environment, we understand the notion of service, the sense of hospitality, inside and outside hotels. Our ambition should include community tourism by all means and also maintaining the polished service, irreproachable quality, exquisite cuisine, value-added sets of various local activities, genuine excursion-discovery programmes. As we use to say “No problem in Mauritius”.

 

Stay safe
Christian Lefèvre
Managing Director – Coquille Bonheur
President – Friends in Tourism (FIT)