What is the scale of Indian outbound to Mauritius?
We closed 2015 with figures of 72,145 Indian travellers. This was a growth of over 18 percent compared to 2014. We are progressing very well. Essentially, our calendar is from January-December. For the first two months of this year, we have registered 15 percent growth.
But, that is lower than what you had achieved in 2015. Is not it?
Our peak season begins post April. Therefore, we are not worried about that. So, we should close this year with, at least, 18 percent. We will reach the eighty-five odd thousand mark by 2016. But, our aim to hit the hundred thousand mark by the end of 2017.
How is the connectivity part shaping up? You have only one airline operating direct flight between the two countries.
Yes. Only air Mauritius flies direct as of now, presently from four cities of Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Mumbai. And, we have always been asking for more capacity; one can fly Emirates, but it is more expensive and longer route.
If one flies from Mumbai to Port Louis on Air Mauritius, it hardly takes around six hours to commute. They have given us some additional flights.
So how many flights do you operate in week from, say, Mumbai?
We operate four base flights from Mumbai. However, in the summers we are going to have five weekly flights. In Delhi, we operate two flights every week. We will add one more which will start from 20th May to the 1st of July.
Similarly, we have some additional flights from Bengaluru and Chennai, too.
Your primary thrust of engagement will be on your source markets? These are your main markets?
They have become important markets primarily because of air-connectivity. Our major source of traffic comes from the western part of India. Gujarat is also becoming a very important market for us. In northern India, Delhi, Jaipur, Jalandhar are important. South India always gave us steady traffic.
We could think of having more travellers from other secondary and tertiary cities, but connectivity remains an issue.
What is the profile of travellers? It must be more leisure? Are there any niche segments?
There are a lot of honeymooners who come to Mauritius. Whenever there is wedding season, we cater to plane-loads of people.
Is the inclusion of additional flights a temporary feature or a long-term inclusion?
It has been started form Delhi. Previously, we had extra flights, only, from Mumbai. We are hopeful of continuing it in the coming years, as well.
How are going to compete with traditionally strong and well-established markets for better MICE segment inflow?
Most of the companies have restricted budgets these days, and they have limited time. Therefore, naturally the cheaper option is to go to Thailand, Singapore or Dubai etc. But, as MICE at happening at various levels in various categories of travel, we position ourselves somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. We are not the cheapest and, definitely, not the most expensive. So, we get enough people. It usually takes a three day itinerary for any MICE movement, so we are sorted as far as Mumbai is concerned. In 2014, MICE accounted for ten percent of total Indian outbound – which has now moved up to fifteen percent in 2015.
Give us a better sense of the segregation
I think it will be almost 85 percent leisure and 15 percent MICE travel in 2016. Interestingly, out of the total leisure movement, almost fifty percent are honeymooners. So, it is becoming a major honeymoon destination for Indians. I think, it is also to do because Mauritius has only 1.2 million people, so travellers get a lot of privacy.
We are to believe, then, that the positioning will continue to be of a high-end destination?
Yes. It will be that of a high-end destination. We are also focusing on Golf travellers, because we have some fantastic golf-courses to offer. Although, the number from India is very small as we recently started promotion in India.
In terms of activities, Europeans take to trekking and hiking. What is are some most sought after activities by the Indian outbound?
Walking with Lions and quad-biking are most sought after. There is good amount of interest for water-related activities like undersea walk, submarine scooter ride, sea-cart, and other activities like parasailing and, of course, shopping.
How much do cultural linkages help the bilateral tourism numbers?
Not much. As far as cultural linkages are concerned, tourism is the other way around. Seventy percent of Mauritians have roots in India – parts of eastern UP and Bihar – so some of them come to India to discover their roots. Also, there is fair amount of movement on account of religious tourism. On the flipside, we get a lot Indians coming to Mauritius because of cultural linkages. We have major Indian presence in the form of institutions like Amity University, Apollo and Fortis Hospitals, Indian Oil and State Bank of India. In fact, all the petrol used in Mauritius is refined in India and then sent back.
How big is the medical tourism segment?
A lot of Mauritians come to India to avail advanced medical facilities. It is visible more in southern states like Tamil Nadu and in Mumbai.