Operating under the aegis of the Ministry of Tourism, the Tourism Authority is the parastatal body overseeing Mauritius’ thriving tourism industry. We interview the Authority’s Director, Lindsay Morvan, to delve further into the island’s sustainability efforts.
Q&A WITH LINDSAY MORVAN, DIRECTOR, TOURISM AUTHORITY
What are the Tourism Authority’s key goals as an organisation?
Lindsay Morvan, Director (LM): Among the many objectives of the Authority, the promotion of sustainable development of the tourism industry and a green destination status for Mauritius are among our upmost priorities.
We foster and encourage the conduct of activities in the tourism industry in a responsible manner to preserve the integrity of the destination while preserving its environmental, cultural and social assets. This is done through enhanced coordination and cooperation between the public sector agencies and the private sector organisations involved in the tourism industry. Our functions are multi-fold, focusing on licensing, regulating, and monitoring of the tourist enterprises. As such, all operators who wish to engage in tourism activities need to be a full-fledged licensee from the Tourism Authority.
In addition, the Authority is also responsible for the cleaning and embellishment of official tourist sites of our main island. In line with the scope of the Tourism Authority, the Sustainable Island Mauritius (SIM) was born; a project co-financed by the European Union under the SWITCH Africa Grant since 2018. The main goal of this initiative is to promote sustainable tourism in Mauritius by demonstrating and scaling up a self-sustaining mechanism for improving sustainability impacts along the value chain. It also targets the improvement of awareness and markets sustainable tourism products and services to new visitors.
What kind of travellers does Mauritius appeal to most?
(LM): Mauritius has always received visitors from around the world. Our island is blessed with wonderful weather almost all year round, and its offering is not limited to beautiful beaches and breath-taking seascapes; it’s packed with beautiful culture, history, exotic cuisines, astonishing biodiversity, and a lush environment.
The mix of visitors is wide ranging, from honeymooners, family travels, business, cultural, MICE, sports tourism and others. Europe remains our main source market while regional markets such as South Africa and Reunion Island are also very important to us.
With a broad perspective of our community, most visitors coming to the island are those who seek excellent service hospitality, enjoy coastal and outdoor recreational experiences like hiking and water activities, are looking for places to get to know about our local history and culture, and to experience the multicultural faceted nature of the island through the local cuisine, and cultural and religious festivals and events. It is also for those looking to see and explore our pristine beaches and other unique places.
Are there any new tourism initiatives or schemes on the island that you would like to highlight?
(LM): Through SIM, our goal is to make Mauritius a certified green destination in the years to come. To achieve this, over 3,500 operators, including taxi drivers, tour operators, hoteliers, tour guides, artisans, local entrepreneurs, boat, and pleasure craft operators from Mauritius and our sister island Rodrigues have benefited from capacity building, coaching sessions, and co-creation ateliers to ensure a better understanding of sustainability, safety and protection of the environment and marine biodiversity, and extend business opportunities for all operators involved.
To engage the population as a whole and reach operators in the industry, a series of workshops, networking events, sensitisation and beach clean-up campaigns have also been organised. Moreover, in May 2022, we launched the first edition of the Sustainable Tourism Mauritius Awards 2022 (STMA), where the winners were rewarded for keeping sight of their aspirational, actionable sustainability goals in their offerings and operations while also being instrumental in COVID-19 crisis recovery. We’ve received over 115 applications across various categories including Hotel & Accommodation, Tour Operator & Tour Guide, Boat & Pleasure Craft Operator, Handicraft & Local Product, and Other Business for this event.
As a result of collective brainstorming facilitated by our external experts CSCP (Collaborating Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production), SIM produced a policy recommendation report for a more sustainable and inclusive tourism, entitled ‘Low Carbon and Resilient Mauritius’, focusing on three policy factsheets under the following themes:
• Transitioning towards electric in-lagoon boats
• Sustainable Golf Management
• Nature-based solutions in Mauritius
In May 2022, SIM held a multisectoral policy dialogue with tourism specialists, giving them the opportunity to share their views, discuss the cross-sectoral implication on the proposed sustainable actions and join forces in generating ideas and innovations to the report.
The conclusions and recommendations adopted at the meeting are intended to assist government, employers, and workers to harness the full potential of the tourism sector to support a sustainable and resilient recovery and transition to a more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient future of work in tourism.
Moreover, SIM, together with the Mauritius Standard Bureau (MSB), launched the local eco-label certification, MS165 Blue Oasis, which is also recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). MS165 was developed to guide the sustainable development of the tourism industry in Mauritius. It is meant for any tourism business or any tourism-related activity to enhance its sustainability performance. We believe that through this local certification, stakeholders will take the best of advantages to level up their operations to meet best sustainability practices. To date, Mautourco, one of the largest Destination Management Companies (DMC) on the island, and Constance Belle Mare Plage, are the first tour operator and hotel respectively to obtain the certification.
How does Mauritius cater to travellers looking for sustainable or eco-friendly travel experiences?
(LM): Discerning travellers and corporate bookers are more and more looking for destinations, attractions, accommodations, and activities that can prove a level of eco-awareness and sustainability in their operations. We believe that by having an internationally recognised green sustainable standard or certification, tourism operators can show to the world that their businesses take environmental considerations seriously and are taking practical steps to tackle issues such as energy efficiency, water saving and mindful waste reduction. Given the vast and complex nature of all the associated tourism value chain, one of our first initiatives is to encourage the certification of the accommodation sector, encompassing large hotels to the smallest of tourist residences.
Through the Tourism Authority, the Ministry of Tourism in Mauritius recently became one of the first destination partners to join the WTTC Hotel Sustainability Basics. The programme focuses on fundamental sustainability criteria, developed by the industry for the industry, and is the minimum that all accommodation providers should meet, helping to raise the floor of sustainability in our sector and country. This will be the initial step for the accommodation sector to embark on this sustainable journey, and subsequently inspire to go through a certification afterwards.
Furthermore, we are developing the digital app for Mauritius Pro-handprint Innovation (MauPHI) toolkit; a tool developed to fit the purposes and needs of local tourism actors, supporting them to visualise sustainability trends and anticipate future risks and opportunities. The latter is expected to be launched by mid-2023. The app will be used by all operators in the industry who are willing to implement sustainable actions in their day-to-day operations and also share with all francophone destinations through L’Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.
In terms of marketing initiatives, SIM together with the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA), developed two sustainable tourism videos: one with a focus on new emerging nature-based activities, and a second one on local gastronomy in both Mauritius and sister island, Rodrigues. These videos were broadcasted at international tourism travel fairs like WTM London, Top Resa Paris and TTG Travel Experience Rimini.
Is it important for Mauritius to offer socially responsible tourism experiences that benefit the local community?
(LM): Definitely. As the main beneficiary of the SIM project, the local DMC Mautourco, was selected as the pilot company to develop the MauPHI. An in-depth self-diagnosis of the DMC’s activities was conducted to design a mission and vision statement towards sustainable best practices in all sectors of operations through capacity building of their employees. Thereafter, a sustainable package including the whole value chain in collaboration with Der Touristik and Beachcomber Hotels as partners was developed. The ‘Wise Dodo’ package was introduced on sales in Germany by Dertour. You can view the video here.
Further to this, we believe that local SMEs, NGOs, associations, communities, and visitors themselves should take an active role towards sustainable, regenerative tourism and circular tourism products. In 2021 and 2022, SIM joined forces with Made in Moris, a Mauritian label for high quality, locally made products that have years of experience working with over 350 Mauritian brands in the handicraft sector and other fields, to deliver online webinar sessions over five weeks to around 15 local artisans or entrepreneurs to assist them in developing their sustainable brand.
Following this, hoteliers and tour operators were invited to embark on a series of guided discovery tours around the island where artisans unveiled their secrets about their goods making, craftsmanship, and the history of their family heritage. They also enjoyed the storytelling aspect of those encounters and listened to stories from the unique perspective of local entrepreneurs and custodians of traditions. The objective of these tours was to encourage operators to support the local artisans by including them within specific tours and packages for tourists. Procurement and sourcing for hotels were also on the agenda where artisans would be working closely with the requirements of the tourism actors to meet the demand.
The tour also included visits to local restaurants which potentially would be future tourist attractions to discover the culinary diversity of Mauritius. Following these initiatives, local entrepreneurs and artisans sat down with the interested hoteliers and tour operators at a co-creation atelier for them to discuss further on the potential of co-creating together new sustainable and green offerings for the visitors. Out of these initiatives, nine co-creation partnerships have finalised their new sustainable products and services. More information on these successful collaborations can be found in this video.
During the training sessions with taxi drivers and tourist drivers working with DMCs and tour operators, the latter were encouraged to develop sustainable packages and discovery tours that would benefit the nearby communities from an accommodation point of view.
Finally, in your opinion, what makes 2023 the year to visit Mauritius?
(LM): After two years of battling the COVID-19 pandemic and easing restrictions, Mauritius is looking ahead to a bumper year for tourism in 2023.
Mauritius is worth visiting for its delicious food. Since the island is popular for its multicultural aspect, it is very easy to find food that everyone will enjoy, from Indian, Chinese, Arabic to authentic Creole cuisine, making it exceptionally convenient for families. There are also a lot of stunning places to visit that are usually not too busy to enjoy and explore the scenery. The island is filled with mountains, waterfalls, beaches, and unique natural phenomena.
Our little paradise island is great for every type of traveller. No matter how you like to travel, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Mauritius. The island has such a wide variety of things to do that there is truly something for everyone to enjoy. We can guarantee that you are not going to get bored in Mauritius. Although we are progressing well on the path to recovery, we remain vigilant and forward minded for a sustainable business model.