Air Mauritius is facing tough times. As it navigates through turbulent skies, its scaling down of India operations has had a visible impact on the growth of Indian outbound numbers to the island nation, said Vivek Anand, Country Manager – India, Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority. He shared that the tourism authority had been exploring partnership opportunities with Emirates to service the outbound, leveraging the Emirati carrier’s multiple points. Excerpts from the interview:
How has 2018 fared? Mauritius Tourism Authority had undertaken a massive B2B outreach, with a much larger entourage, products, and experiences in attendance? Has the effort resulted in a visible gain in traffic from India?
There has been no growth in tourist numbers in the last year. The reason is air-connectivity. Air Mauritius has its own set of challenges and financial issues, leading them to undertake a route rationalisation. It has pulled out some flights from India. Actually, we have had fewer flights in 2018 than in 2017 (Mauritius Tourism calculates figures based on traffic in a calendar year). We have, yet, been able to hold on to the numbers that we were getting in the previous year.
The situation is similar in 2019; we have no additional flights. In fact, we are flying 8-9 connections less than before. We are trying to work things out with other airlines. Emirates flies from 9 points in India to Dubai and we are exploring the possibility of establishing a working relation, a collaboration, with the carrier.
Will it provide the same pull? A longer route and layovers may deter traffic?
It may take 13-14 hours, instead of 7 hours from Delhi. It would be the same with Mumbai. It is a roundabout way of getting there but people are travelling. We are trying to collaborate. For example, Air Mauritius does not connect Kolkata, Hyderabad and Ahmadabad.
If you could share with us some numbers.
It was 86,700 in the previous year.
The target is to cater to 1,20,000 tourists from India by 2020. Do you see that number being achieved or will the air-connectivity issue play spoilsport?
We are also exploring the possibility of some Indian carriers flying to Mauritius. If we can create some additional capacity, I am certain that we will reach the target. There is no lack of enthusiasm among Indian travellers.
How have those Indian carriers reciprocated? Is the enthusiasm mutual?
Certainly, there is enthusiasm. But with the Boeing Max’s grounding issue, things have not moved. We are hopeful that the issue will settle down in a couple of months and then we should see some development on this front.
Could you name some of the Indian carriers?
It is too premature to reveal names.
What is the segment distribution like? We understand that honeymooners form a vast majority of your inbound. Has that trend continued?
Honeymooners form almost 50% of the total numbers. MICE (it includes weddings) constitutes about 15%. The rest constitutes of FITs, leisure, golf and others.
Where will the thrust be in terms of the market?
Unlike five years ago, we are now pushing for a larger share of golf tourists. Then the focus was solely on honeymooners. That has been a big change.