Latest figures released by the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) and the Central Bank indicate that average spend per tourist for 2018 is 58,300 in Mauritian Rupees equivalent whereas for Mauritius, average spend per tourist is Rs 45,800, i.e. 27% lower. The figure for Mauritius is on a plummeting trend since quite some time and should be cause for concern at the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Tourism, the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) and the tourism sector at large.
These figures show clearly that that Seychelles is targeting high yielding market segment tourists; with a resulting much lower impact on the islands environment. Until recently, Mauritius had a strong image among top selective tourist destinations. This brand is today blurred on our main source markets according to tourism and hospitality professionals. There are multiple reasons for this, as explained in a previous article in May last in l’express. We pointed out the increasing importance and number of environmentally conscious visitors who prefer green and cultural tourism products.
To promote tourism, Seychelles is capitalising on its two Unesco World Heritage sites, namely Aldabra atoll and Vallée de Mai, famous for its giant tortoises and well known for its “coco de mer” respectively.
In adopting a niche marketing approach, Seychelles promotion authorities (unlike Mauritius) are fully aware that the main source markets are increasingly conscious of whether a destination is sufficiently “green’’ and environmentally friendly to warrant their choice and also of the fact that the reputation of the destination could erode swiftly if it does not collectively commit to sustainable practices.
To that end, Seychelles is capitalising on its two Unesco World Heritage sites, namely Aldabra atoll (famous for its giant tortoises) and Vallée de Mai, reminiscent of the garden of Eden, well known for its “coco de mer”. Seychelles also bank on another important tourism asset constituted by well maintained and managed marine parks. No surprise then that Seychelles is doing better than Mauritius on source markets like Germany, France, UK and even Réunion Island.
On the issue of visitor numbers against yield, the matter has been extensively debated in Seychelles. The authorities and private sector agree that sustained growth should in no way jeopardise its viability as a “high end” destination. Whereas some in charge of policy making as well as several senior executives in Mauritius seem to have lost their way on governance matters in the rough seas of fierce competition.
The Seychelles authorities are also putting a lot of emphasis on digital marketing. For the first half of 2019, its social media audience has increased by 3% organically across their five platforms compared to the previous six months. STB’s website traffic has also increased by 7%. These numbers will keep increasing as they aim to boost their efforts on key platforms and expand their digital reach; while growing same, the authorities keep working on several projects to generate more content. This platform known as Crowdriff allows Seychelles to capture User Generated Content and gain the necessary rights to reuse them in their marketing efforts.
As for Mauritius, we can only repeat that there is need to urgently address the several critical issues affecting our tourism sector, including the dwindling average spend per tourist. More generally rejuvenation of Destination Mauritius is still awaited. Some in the private sector are calling for «une stratégie plus claire et cohérente» from Government. The Director of the Association des hôteliers et restaurateurs de l’île Maurice made an appeal for urgent action «pour redresser notre tourisme».
Can the Ministry of Tourism or the MTPA explain what is happening and what is being done to reverse the disturbing downward path of a sector which is an important foreign exchange earner?