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Remarks by High Commissioner Mrs. K. Nandini Singla for ‘Hospitality and Tourism Conclave’ by Services Export Promotion Council (SEPC) 9th September 2022

Remarks for ‘Hospitality and Tourism Conclave’ by Services Export Promotion Council (SEPC)

9th September 2022

India and Mauritius share a special relationship that is built on the foundation of people-to-people ties. This foundation was forged by the Indian indentured labourers who arrived in Mauritius starting in the 1830’s to work in the sugarcane fields as part of the ‘Great Mauritian indentured labour experiment’. It is a matter of immense pride that this ‘Girmitiya’ Indian community has helped transform Mauritius into one of the most developed countries in Africa and Indian origin persons are today at the helm of political leadership in the country. Indian culture and traditions continue to flourish in their most vibrant form in Mauritius and have become an integral part of this multi-cultural society.

These historical and cultural linkages and ties of blood and kinship have helped sustain a steady flow of people between India and Mauritius. About 30,000 Mauritians travel to India every year for a variety of reasons - religious pilgrimages, healthcare, education, business, meeting friends and family and most importantly- for shopping. Mauritius is also a favoured holiday destination for Indian travellers. About 1 lakh such Indian tourists visit Mauritius every year. Considering our deep bonds, I feel that there is a lot of scope for increasing tourist flows from both sides. In this context, I have 6 suggestions to offer:

  1. Firstly, we need to improve direct flight connectivity between India and Mauritius. As of now, we have only 5 weekly flights of Air Mauritius to only one destination in India- Mumbai. To put things in comparison, there are 60 flights per week operating between Maldives and various Indian cities!

I believe that we should open the airspace between the two countries to other operators. Recently, a Mauritian delegation visited India and explored the possibility of operating flights to other Indian cities such as Delhi, with Air Vistara and Air India. In order to promote ease of travel, we should improve connectivity not only between Mauritius and India, but also domestically from the first airport of disembarkation to destination cities in India. Seamless connectivity, without the hassle of having to check out one’s luggage at every airport or having to deal with different baggage limits on the domestic and international segments, is key to encouraging more travellers to visit India. We should encourage airline operators to have code-sharing arrangements to make this a reality.

  1. Secondly, hundreds of Mauritians aspire to go on religious tours to India, particularly the ‘Char Dham yatra’ and Varanasi. So far, these tourist markets are captured by private tour operators. To promote greater inflow of such tourists, I feel that concerned states such as Uttarakhand must offer more attractive packages to facilitate smoother flow of tourists on a regular basis. In our experience, tourism packages with the assurance of Government facilitation, inspire more confidence in the Mauritian tourist and will encourage far greater numbers. This can be a very profitable commercial enterprise for states too, apart from putting the state on the global tourism map.
  1. Thirdly, while Mauritius offers ‘visa on arrival’ to Indian tourists, Mauritian tourists travelling to India need a prior visa. Allowing visa on arrival to Mauritian tourists will certainly encourage Mauritian tourists. Incidentally, according to the Henley Passport Index 2022, a Mauritian can travel visa-free to 146 destinations across the world, making the Mauritian passport the 31st most powerful one worldwide! But he cannot travel visa-free to India!
  1. Fourthly, can we think of having an annual shopping festival like the Dubai shopping festival that can attract tourists? Mauritians typically wear Indian traditional clothes and always look at their trips to India as opportunities to shop for good quality sarees, kurta pyjamas and fashionable clothes, especially for marriages and festivals. A shopping festival offering them discounted deals will certainly be an attractive proposition.
  1. Fifthly, most Mauritians travelling to India restrict themselves to big cities in India, rather than off-beat destinations. In fact, many are even unaware of the hidden gems that we have in North-East India or exquisite destinations such as Ladakh and Kutch! We need to run a promotional campaign to popularize these unique destinations as well as niche tourism such as wildlife tourism, adventure tourism and eco-tourism.
  1. Lastly, we don’t have an India Tourism Office in Mauritius or the region. Earlier, we had one in South Africa, but not anymore. Re-establishing a Tourism Office that actively undertakes these promotional campaigns on a consistent basis is key to capturing the Mauritian market. Mauritius has decided to aggressively promote itself to Indian tourists ever since they reopened after Covid. It is for us now to review our strategy and target Mauritius as a source of tourists to India, particularly as we celebrate these people-to-people ties in 2023, when we commemorate the 75th anniversary of our diplomatic ties!
  1. Thank you for your kind attention and patience. I wish the Hospitality and Tourism Conclave, every success!
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