By James Wilkinson
Mauritius is aiming to win a larger share of the Australian MICE market in 2009 and beyond as the Indian Ocean nation continues to add new product on a luxury level.
Dr Mootoosamy (third from right) with dancers on Flat Island
Speaking exclusively to SpiceNews on Flat Island – the country’s newest events space offering – Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority director Dr Karl Mootoosamy said the Australian market has continued to grow thanks to the nation’s unique positioning.
“Mauritius is different. We’re not Asia… we’re not Africa… we’re not part of Europe and we’re not just any other island. We are a product of our own and we are playing in a league of our own,” he said.
“This is an island experience but out of that we need to take people to the beaches, we need to take people inland, but most of it we need to keep the element of surprise – it means people are so amazed at what’s on offer and Mauritius is an experience in itself.”
Flat Island, located 45 minutes by boat from Grand Bay, has undergone a complete transformation and was launched as an events space in front of 120 VIPs and journalists – in the country for last week’s Mauritius International Kreol Festival.
The island was a quarantine facility until the end of World War II – many of the original ruins still exist – and until recently was used by locals and tour companies. Now it can hold hundreds for lunch, dinner or cocktails in temporary marquees set up on the sand.
“This island has been revamped completely, so it can adapt itself for the MICE market. When people come in groups, we can create something very special,” Dr Mootoosamy said.
Across the country, Mauritius has adapted itself to the booming island MICE market out of Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia in particular. Air access has been the key with flag carrier Air Mauritius now operating three flights from Australia each week – two from Perth and one from Melbourne.
“The MICE market (from Australia) is very important for us. We have seat capacity coming from Australia and all of the hotels in Mauritius have adapted their rooms and conference facilities to suit the MICE market,” he said.
New hotels with MICE product are also helping that growth. The Four Seasons Resort at Anahita recently swung open its doors, while the InterContinental Mauritius Resort opens in early 2009.
When asked about how the country compares to Asia from a price perspective for Australian groups, Dr Mootoosamy said it’s not about the dollars for conferences in Mauritius.
“It’s not about the pricing, it’s about the quality,” he said. “More and more, we are adapting ourselves to the demand and the only common element that you’ll find in Mauritius is that we are quality driven.
“What we want to do is make the product tailor made – we have everything from diving to golf, shopping, fishing, kite surfing and safaris to spas. We have got it all-in-one in Mauritius.”
Dr Mootoosamy said the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority will have a strong showing at AIME in 2009, where key products will be on show for attendees at the major exhibition.