Mauritius Island: A growing opportunity for tourism industry

Mauritius has become a hub of economic activity in the region.

It is as a result of the incentives such as issuance of number of work permits and favorable business environment provided for by the government.  

A number of foreign companies “including over 170 of French origin and mainly SMEs and entrepreneurs chose to carry out their business activities from Mauritius”.

Mauritius, a small island country located in East Africa, is a land of opportunities for the locals with its growth potential in the tourism industry. According to the Ministry of Tourism, Mauritius has “outperformed the national average” with a number of tourists increasing exponentially.

This has consequently led to business activity in the country benefitting large organizations as well as small and medium enterprises.

However, it is important to highlight that the existence of foreign companies and entrepreneurs has become a challenge for local businesses. Foreign-controlled large businesses pose a threat to local small enterprises particularly in the tourism sector.

For instance, visitors would prefer large scale foreign hotels with their luxurious amenities as opposed to local hotels that cannot provide the same level of facilities.  

There is need to promote the informal entrepreneurs to engage in tourism services. This would ensure they are able to provide an experience that thoroughly reflects Mauritius’ indigenous cultures and traditions.

The Mauritius government can also provide adequate training and education to the local SME entrepreneurs so that they can compete with their foreign counterparts instead of relegating them.

This assistance to informal operators can result in a fair competition that can create a conducive business environment in which tourists can greatly benefit from.

Another possible solution to improve the role of local SME entrepreneurs in Mauritius is to introduce the concept of Community-based tourism enterprises (CBE).

This is the creation of partnerships between local communities and foreign investors. The locals would get the opportunities and resources to establish their businesses while keeping elements of local culture and traditions intact.

A well-implemented CBEs can enhance opportunities for the local communities and rather than exploit them, using an effective system for accountability.

Empowerment of female entrepreneurs

Women have become a significant part of the labour force in all industries. In Mauritius, the tourism industry is no exception.

To ensure women contribute effectively to the workforce, the Mauritius government has enacted numerous policies and reforms over time to create an enabling environment.

This includes the removal of restrictions and discrimination against women.

However, despite such measures women lag behind their male counterparts in terms of the number of women employed and how much they are paid.

Women are also unable to excel in a sector where businesses are to a great extent male-dominated, while women few in number struggle to balance their work and family lives.

The survey on female entrepreneurship in Mauritius 2002 shows that females lack satisfactory education and academic qualifications as compared to their male counterparts.

As a result, these women cannot support their businesses and are unable to foresee risks as they lack the education required to do so.

The Mauritius government needs to take steps to empower female entrepreneurs and enable their greater participation in the tourism industry. In doing so, the first and foremost step is to provide adequate training and education.

Such initiative provides required skills that will not only bolster their businesses but also aid in ensuring a steady income and encouraging other women in the area to embark on undertaking similar activities.

Sustainability and tourism

It is obvious that with increased economic activity and business growth there will be negative ramifications for the environment. This is particularly relevant for the tourism sector.

The increased inflow of tourists often results in certain adverse effects on the environment for instance, among others, waste production, deforestation, and loss of habitat of endangered species.

More lands are cleared to build large resorts. Greater carbon dioxide emissions from travel and tourism are another ecological concern.

Given the aforementioned ecological concerns the need for sustainable development ameliorates becomes imperative. However, the environment is just one aspect, the other two aspects of sustainable development include social and economic.

In accordance with The Mauritius Tourism Strategic Plan 2018-2021, the government must foster greater sustainable practices in tourism development by ensuring cultural preservation, community development and empowerment through training and education and reducing the carbon footprint.

To make the environment more sustainable the government must also provide incentives to the SME entrepreneurs that can aid in reducing adverse ecological impacts.

On the other hand, to achieve social and economic sustainability the focus must be on the local SME entrepreneurs.

While foreign investment is important the local workforce is essential so the government must ensure that foreign businesses and investors do not undermine the local SME entrepreneurs and businesses.

In order to provide the tourist with a true Mauritius experience, it is important to preserve and highlight local customs, cultures and traditions which can be provided adequately by the local businesses.

The global pandemic

Business environments are constantly changing all over the world and the tourism industry too. Mauritius’ tourism industry was also badly hit; “the number of tourists visiting declined by 1.1% in 2019 and gross tourism earnings fell by 1.5% to Rs63.1bn” (Smit).

As a result, the government had to provide the local businesses with relief to cope with the economic downturn as a result of the global pandemic.

The local businesses and SME entrepreneurs can be better prepared for opportunities in the post-COVID-19 world.

Bibliography

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Ministry of Tourism. “Introduction to the Tourism Sector in Mauritius.” n.d. Mauritius Government Portal. <https://tourism.govmu.org/Pages/Tourist%20Sector/Tourism-Sector.aspx>.

Prayag, Girish , Kiran Dookhony-Ramphul and Mootoo Maryeven. “Hotel development and tourism impacts in Mauritius: Hoteliers’ perspectives on sustainable tourism.” Development Southern Africa 27.5 (2010): 697-712.

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Smit, Shani. “Op-Ed: Tourism sector in Mauritius devastated by COVID-19.” 4 June 2020. CNBC Africa. <https://www.cnbcafrica.com/opinion/2020/06/04/op-ed-tourism-sector-in-mauritius-devastated-by-covid-19/>.

Sunibel. “Entrepreneurs! Mauritius will charm you.” 20 December 2018. Sunibel Corporate Services. <https://www.sunibel.com/>.

SUS. “Making Mauritius a Leading and Sustainable Tourist Destination.” n.d. Sustainable Island Tourism Mauritius. <https://www.scp-centre.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/sus-Island_brochure.pdf>.