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Tourism Industry in the Mauritius

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.0 Introduction

Tourism was the third pillar of the Mauritian economy after the E.P.Z.(export processing zone) manufacturing sector and Agriculture. It has contributed significantly to economic growth and has been a key factor in the overall development of Mauritius since the years 1995 onwards. In the past two decades tourist arrivals increased at an average annual rate of 9 % with a corresponding increase of about 21% in tourism receipts. Tourist arrivals have been expanding consequently, thus rising from 103,000 in 1977 to 656,450 in 2000, a more than 600% increase. About 67% of the tourist arrivals are of European origin, with France supplying nearly half. The nearby Reunion French Territory is the most important short haul source market accounting for about 13% of total tourist arrivals. Asian residents provided 6% of tourist arrivals, almost half of which originated from the Indian Sub-Continent.

The World Travel and Tourism council (WTTC) stated that travel and tourism was estimated at 9.3 % in 2010 and is expected to rise up to 9.7% by 2020. This increase will help to create an additional 66 million jobs by 2020, in which 50 million jobs should be created in Asia and hence help to decrease world poverty. The longer-term prospects for Travel & Tourism remain positive, boosted by rising prosperity in Asia. The WTTC remains confident that the Travel and Tourism industry will remain a dynamic force for wealth and job creation all over the world.

The tourism industry does not cease to grow despite the problems that it has encountered in the past years, such as the credit crunch, terrorism, continuous increasing petrol prices and the famous avian flu (bird flu). The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) states that tourism recovered strongly in 2010 according to the Advance Release of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). Tourist arrivals were up by almost 7% to 935 million, following the 4% decline in 2009 – the year hardest hit by the global economic crisis (

Tourism has become one of the most important pillar and the most revenue generating activity in many small island developing states. It has become the source of job creation and revenue for small island’s inhabitants. A change in the tourism demand for an island may have a major impact on the Gross Domestic Product (total value of goods and services produced in a country during a certain period of time, usually one year), the budget and the Balance of Payments.

Most small islands have adopted tourism due to a lack of development opportunities. The end of the twentieth century marked the beginning of the tourism as the main pillar of small islands’ economies (Bonte 2006), as it is the case for Mauritius. In large part, islands and cruises have become the most wanted vacation for tourists (Harrison, 2004). Tourism is a mean to reach economic development and economic growth, but is also a way to destroy its resources (Bonte, 2006). The Barcelona field study (2006) states that it is not just necessary to satisfy tourism demands, but also to cater for its durable development. Indeed, tourism does not have only positive impacts, but does have adverse effects on the environment and on the host community. The development of high volume tourism facilities without adequate consideration to impacts, has created many “tourism disasters” (Smith and Edington 1992). Aooay (2003) states that tourism is not only dreaming landscapes on postcards, the social reality is different: movement of population and disappearance of local savoir faire, begging, prostitution, ‘folkorisation’ of cultures and rituals.

Tourism has suffered from serious health crises including the foot and mouth disease in 2001in United Kingdom, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003 and the bird flu that started to expand in June 2002 ( Tourism has also been impacted by several natural disasters including earthquakes, flooding, wild fires, hurricanes and the most devastating Tsunami in December 2004 which caused around 218000 deaths and to this day, other natural calamities, was one still having a significant impact upon the tourist movement and the tourism industry worldwide.

It is a fact, not only in words but also visually that the sugar cane industry is rapidly being replaced by tourism activities. However since Mauritius is entirely banking on the tourism industry for economic revenue, the question is; what could happen to Mauritius if the tourism sector saw a rapid decline or even an imminent death. One need to bear in mind that Mauritius is not the only country around the world offering this type of product and the fact that Mauritius is situated very far from the targeted market combined with an increase in air fare or/and tourism threats or even natural calamities, what can be done so that the future generation in relation to tourism development does not become black. This present dissertation tries to address the various issues that could cause the death of tourism if not remedied

1.1 Problem Statement

Mauritius is a small island in the Indian Ocean. The island’s most important revenue in the 1980’s was sugar cane being exported to European Countries. Nowadays it relies mostly on the tourism sector and tourism is being considered as its main pillar. The tourism industry is in fact a very young one, having emerged only in the last decade in many countries of the world.

History has shown that tourism and its development have impacted in some ways, on everything and everyone that is has touched. Ideally, these impacts should be positive in terms of benefits to destinations and their residents but on the other side of the coin, this is not always the case. According to Leonard A. Jackson (2006), local people’s rebellion, environmental damages, cultural intimacy are good examples of negative impacts of tourism. Sugar cane fields are now being replaced by new projects such as the Integrated Resort scheme of Tamarina and Bagatelle at Pailles, catering for the tourism sector.

This present work is being done in order to analyse the threats to tourism, its weaknesses and eventually try to evaluate whether the tourism industry will face an end like the Sri Lanka whose Balance of Payment was in deficit after the tourism injections in the economy fell after the war started between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers)

1.2 Aim

The aim of this present study is to assess whether the tourism industry in Mauritius could face a possible end.

1.3 Objectives

In line with the problem statement and the aim of this work, the following objectives were formulated:

  1. Identify the importance of the tourism sector in Mauritius and the latter’s dependency on it.
  2. To Identify the threats to the tourism industry and its impacts there on.
  3. To identify the threats that are relevant to Mauritius and its tourism industry.
  4. To assess whether Mauritius is at risk of those threats.
  5. To identify possible ways of mitigating those impacts.

1.4 Research structure

The study was classified into different chapters with the following purposes:

Chapter 1- Introduction

To introduce the subject, to define the problem, aims and objectives of the research and outline the different chapters.

Chapter 2- Literature Review

To give a brief account of previous research made in the field of threats to the tourism sector concentrating on small island developing states.

Chapter 3- Saving the tourism industry

To analyse the strengths of small islands and the factors that may save the tourism industry.

Chapter 4- Methodology

To outline the main steps taken to carry out this present research, providing details on the type of study used, its advantages and disadvantages, the questions set for interviewing targeted respondents and the limitations to the study.

Chapter 5- Data analysis and findings

To analyse and discuss the results obtained from respondents

Chapter 6- Conclusion and recommendations

To summarise the most important findings and to bring an end to the study and from the previous chapters to suggest any possible actions that could be considered in the near future.

Chapter 2 Literature Review

2.0 A global perspective of the tourism industry.

“Shorter working hours, greater individual prosperity, faster and less expensive travel, and the impact of advanced technology has all helped to make the leisure and tourism industry the fastest growing industry in the world” (Edgell, Sr., 1990).

Tourism has become a flourishing industry in the twentieth century, where destinations mostly rely on their natural and some manmade resources to make up their tourism industry. It is nowadays a principal element for economic development and growth. According to Lim (1997) and Crouch (1996), the economic impact of tourism has rendered the tourism industry to be considered as one of the most highly significant and integral parts of every national economy. Whilst the economic impact and the contribution of the tourism industry to a country is widely acknowledged, it is also an industry which creates thousands of jobs and a source of foreign exchange earnings. Let alone the positive benefits, it is also an industry that brings along many negative impacts on host communities.

2.1 Threats to the tourism industry

2.1.1 Competition

Recently, many countries have constantly been competing for tourism. “One possible first approach to the definition of competition is to consider competition a process of resources distribution” (Loch et al. 2001). In a market, the people, firms, organisations, industries will tend to use only the very little resources to stay alive in a co operation market, but will make utilisation of full resources when they are in an extreme competitive market. Competition is also highly dependent on the availability of resources and the number of individuals, firms and organisations who wish to exploit those resources, but as the basic economic problem states, wants are unlimited but resources are scarce, thus individual tend to exploit the resources more that they should. This will result in the population being suffering as stated by Bahn and Flenley(1992) “the rise of competition can lead to such a catastrophic imbalance that the final consequence might be the extinction of the population” and the tourism industry as a whole.

Competition should not only be seen as a way of boosting a market but if the competition is not well managed or even if policies with regards to competition are not clear, there may be a proliferation of tourism activities which could be to the detriment of the host community. For example the growth of hotels on the coast lines may prove to be beneficial to a country’s economy in the short term and long term if managed properly. However, if there are no proper guidelines on competition, it can become a nightmare for countries as host communities could feel alienated.

2.1.2 Increasing petrol prices

The first months of 2008 witnessed the considerable increase in oil prices where it reached a record price of $100 per barrel. Prices were predicted to increase to 140$ in June 2008 (BBC, 2008). This continuous increase in the year 2008 was due to the increase demand for travelling (according to the law of demand, as demand increases, price increases) because of globalisation and increase in travelling resulting from an increase in the number of people, firms and organisations wishing to exploit resources. Moreover, the increase in price of petrol has caused an increase in tickets for travelling. An increase in air fares have caused a fall in the tourist arrival. Thus one can say that the increasing petrol prices may be one of the threats to the tourism industry because it is linked with the increase in petrol prices and an increase in air fares.

2.1.3 Criminality rate, gambling and social factors

Ntuli(1998) described crime as “ a universal social phenomenon in that it threatens the safety and security of the people, property, their sense of well being, as well as social order”.

The case of Mrs. Harte being killed in her hotel room at the Legends Hotel, for a couple of dollars, when being on honey moon, is one which may be said to be unforgiveable. Mauritius is a famous worldwide known destination for weddings and honey moons. This crime is detrimental for its tourism industry. This news was broadcasted a few hours only after the crime had been committed, on several channels under the “Breaking News” titles and had it “Murdered honeymooner Michaela McAreavy (Harte) was strangled over a purse containing a small amount of cash.”( This was broadcasted around the world and Mauritians were soon pointed out in lots of countries. The words of the husband inspire more sadness saying “She was my life”. The media was very quick at propagating the bad news and bad press and such publicity is not what a tourism destination wants. This act is in fact one of the greatest threat to the Mauritian’s tourism industry. Tourists who were forecasting to getting married in Mauritius have surely cancelled their reservations as soon information about this tragedy spread around the whole world and this is witnessed in Ntuli (2000) who found that nowadays, crimes committed against tourist is becoming more and more detrimental to the tourism industry of a destination.

As mentioned earlier, and supported by Giddens (1990) who stated that crimes committed to travellers has an impact on many categories of people, because a negative perception of tourists at a destination is often reported in the media or even tourist themselves to friends and families and this causes a negative word of mouth being spread as it is actually the case for the death of Mrs Harte. The host country will thus be badly marketed and tourist arrivals will decline as supported by Ntuli (2000).

On the other hand, in a few countries like Bahamas, the heads of states think that even if the criminality rate is a worry to many Bahamians, it is not a threat to tourism, according to an official at the U.S. Embassy in Nassau ( Dr Hardt, from the US embassy stated that there is now more than 200 police officers are now available to prevent crimes on tourists and that the new priorities have been stretched out concerning those crimes. From the above, one can say that crimes may not be an imminent threat to the tourism industry, provided that there is enough security officers and aims and objectives set.

Gambling is often viewed as a booster for the economy of a country because usually the positive impacts of gabling outweighs the negative ones(Stokowski, 1996). Several studies such as Perdue, et al.(1995), Roehl(1994) suggest that gambling is profitable to a country because it generates a high profitability and contributes in job creation and a revenue for the government in terms of taxes.

On the other hand, Tosun(2002) found that gambling results in crimes and social disruption and usually creates very bad effects for the country as a whole. Studies showing the negative aspect of gambling are various, such as Caneday et al.(1991) and Stokowski(1996). Thus the negative results from gambling should not be forgotten. Prostitution and tourists attacks result from gambling. People find that tourists are a cash cow and attack them and stealing their belongings so as to have money to gamble because gambling is like a drug. Prostitution is also generated from gambling. It is such that where the tourism industry is developing, those countries do have a good proportion of its population with very low income and tourists are seen as stated above , cash cows. Hence prostitution is the result of poor economic development and an easy way of making money and tourists have the spending power to such activity but it is important to note that most tourists do not like gambling and seing people prostituting themselves give them a sense of unsafe surroundings and disgust. This has an adverse impact on word of mouth spreading. An example of the negative impacts of gambling is the state of Nevada in the United States where it depends much on gambling. The statistics for this state are astonishing. This state is the one which has the highest number of road accident, suicide and criminality rate (Vaknin, 2007).

Gambling is related to criminality rate according to Vaknin(2007). When one talks about gambling, one may understand crimes, addiction, drug and accidents. Those impacts should be carefully monitored even if gambling brings much economic development for a country (Perdue et al 1995).

Drug intake and thefts are also becoming “common” nowadays in Mauritius. Thousands of complaints are lodged at police stations concerning thefts and in this context, many tourists are attacked for their money or valuable belongings. Drug intake make more and more individual go on stealing to obtain their doses and such social factors should be tackled in order to prevent the end of tourism in Mauritius.

2.1.4 Political instability, civil wars, riots and demonstrations

“Political instability is a situation where a government has been toppled, or is controlled by factions following a coup, or where basic functional pre-requisites for social-order control and maintenance are unstable and periodically disrupted”. (Cook, 1990). Wilson(1996), on the other hand, defines a stable country as ‘if the regime is durable, violence and turmoil are limited, and the leaders stay in office for several years”. The link between political violence and instability in Hall et al.(1996) definition of political instability as ‘‘a situation in which conditions and mechanisms of governance and rule are challenged as to their political legitimacy by elements operating from outside of the normal operations of the political system. When challenge occurs from within a political system and the system is able to adapt and change to meet demands on it, it can be said to be stable” Challenging in order to govern a country or even those who do not follow the actual political system is often solved by violence; political violence. Thus political instability and political violence are two words that can be used as synonyms.

Lancaster(1971) states that tourists enjoy many different advantages that a destination offers, rather than sticking to only one advantage. Tourists can and will shift easily to another destination unless the attractions to that country are unique in the world. In other words, a tourist will go to a destination for its sea, sun and sand like it is the case for Mauritius and may shift destination if he wants unless there is only those 3s’ in Mauritius but it is not the case because Maldives, Seychelles offer nearly the same tourism product.

Richter and Waugh(1986) state that ‘tourism is frequently an early casualty of internecine warfare, revolution, or even prolonged labour disputes. Even if the tourist areas are secure (…) tourism may decline precipitously when political conditions appear unsettled. Tourists simply choose alternative destinations.’ Taking the above example, even if Mauritius offered the unique sea, sun and sand in the world, tourism in Mauritius will be hurt if there is political violence. This shows to what extent political instability may cause the end of the tourism industry in Mauritius such as the case of Egypt which recently through severe political violence resulting in its tourism industry falling drastically.

Richter and Waugh(1989) argued that tourism is for sure a political phenomenon: it will decrease sharply when political circumstance turns unstable. In 1994 Hall published his book Tourism and Political Science where he asserts that stable politics is a must for attracting international tourists, even the decisive factor for the successful development of tourism (Hall, 1994).

In case of political violence, tourism being a sensitive product and therefore tourists arrivals will continue to go down for a long period of time. Tourists will only come back to this particular country only when he has eradicated this idea of violence from his mind, but it might take many years. “Countries with a negative image due to past events of violence often attempt to improve their image with aggressive advertising campaigns trying to portray themselves as entirely safe destinations” (Sönmez et al.1999). Scott(1988) showed the massive work done by tourism authorities together with travel agents and tour operators to redress the country of Fiji where there was two military “coups” on tourism. Teye(1986) and Richter and Waugh (1986) state that the effects of political violence or instability on tourism is likely to have a spill over effects on surrounding countries but Hall and O’Sullivan(1996) found that both the Solomon Islands and North Queensland, found near Fuji, said that they were “safe” regional alternatives compared to the military “coup” in Fiji. (See appendix A)

Many articles have examined the impact of war on tourism. Most of them have shown that war has a negative impact in the short run (Radnic, 1999, Mihalic, 1996). In the long run, wars may have a positive impact in the sense that tourists are attracted to a destination to see the scenes of war (Weaver, 2000). To measure the impact of war, one may use the number of overnight stays, beds or tourists, but experts have not attempted to measure the economic impact resulting from a fall in tourism. Wars can increase the perception of a tourist in the risk that he undergoes while choosing a destination.

Hostilities, demonstrations and acts of violence, for example between the Palestinians and Israelis, have often discouraged tourists from visiting Israel for the past 40 years. Besides, Israel is located in the centre of the Middle East, tourists tend to avoid visiting this country during every period of crisis in the surroundings.

Riots are also one of those factors which can put an end to the tourism Industry. The case of Tunisia may be taken for example. While most Tunisians were celebrating the victory president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the country’s tourism industry witnessed a massive negative impact from the riots and tourists had to be evacuated of the country. “While President Ben Ali was a totalitarian leader, tourists from Europe and the Arab world kept streaming to the country at an ever-increasing rate. Only few of the arrivals even know that Tunisia was a dictatorship even if they came year after year” ( With the state of emergency declared in Tunisia, and with the unclear political situation after the fall of President Ben Ali, government of Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Norway have issued messages not to travel to Tunisia and this of course included tourist trips (Bernama-Afrolnews, 2011). This shows to what extent riots can have such an influence on the tourism industry.

In Mauritius, such riots were witnessed in 1999 with the death of the famous singer Kaya. The capital of Mauritius, Port Louis, was forced to close down for a few days and demonstrators had blocked major roads burned about 200 vehicles and attacked police stations. It degenerated to nearly become a racial dispute where young Creole men were fighting against Hindu people. Such an tragedy caused the economy of Mauritius to operate on a go slow basis. Such news were broadcasted internationally for much more than the duration of the riots. Businessmen became worried that their business might go bankrupt because that instability could hit foreign investors (

2.1.5 Natural Disasters

A natural disaster is “a natural event with catastrophic consequences for living things in the vicinity.” (

Natural forces will always be with us and tourism is a major sector of the world economy. The first mentioned is and will always be a challenge for the tourism industry. Therefore, these two elements will continue to play significant roles into the future. In the past these two elements have intersected and it is likely that they will again in the future. (Beattie, 1992).

A natural disaster can affect tourism in the sense that it destroys the natural environment and the things which the industry relies on. There exists a close link between tourism and natural disasters as if there is a natural disaster, the industry may be destroyed. Tourism is an important part of many countries’ economy and in less economically developed countries such as those affected by the tsunami, on boxing day of year 2004, whereby the affected countries relied on the tourism industry’s services for living.

Usually a natural calamity makes the rate of tourists arrival fall, which results in a lack of tourist spending. Businesses suffer due to lack of money generated by tourism, local small businesses close, larger businesses are in agony, leading to closure of parts of the business and jobs are lost.

There are cases where natural disasters can increase tourism arrivals. In a strange manner, places that have been affected by natural disaster can become tourist attractions. Those places often become places of educational and historical interest and many people visit those areas or countries.

An example of this is the village of Boscastle in United Kingdom. The village faced the worst ever flood in its history on 16th August 2004. A recorded 200.4mm of rain fell in just twenty four hours causing a 3m torrent to flow through the village (; article factors affecting tourism; natural calamities). Over 100 residents were rescued by air. 116 cars were swept through the village in the harbour that particular day. It caused millions of pounds of damage to property and businesses. Following this, the small village was much on the media. After 2004, there were loads visitors which came from many places to visit the village, in such a way that accommodation became a problem because of massive number of people wanting to be accommodated.( Robyn et al.2010)

The case of typhoons in the Philippines had more negative impacts on the concerned country. The typhoons named “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” have ravaged dramatically parts of the Philippines last year and have had a negative impact on tourism, as compared to the small village in the United Kingdom.

Mauritius is a tropical island is frequently visited by cyclones but most of the times those create little destruction to Mauritius. some tourists perceive those cyclones as an experience, but others perceive them as a natural factor preventing them from enjoying their stay. This may lead in guests cancelling their trips to Mauritius during the cyclonic seasons (November to May)

2.1.6 Climate Change, Global Warming

“Climate change represents a new challenge for tourism. It is not, however, the case that tourism’s initial position will undergo a sudden, radical change. Instead, climate change has to be viewed as a catalyst that will reinforce and accelerate the pace of structural change in the tourist industry and more clearly highlight the risks and opportunities inherent in tourist developments”. (Elsasser,2002)

“Glaciers are melting, islands are drowning, wildlife is vanishing. Because of global warming, our most cherished vacation spots may soon cease to exist. And travellers are part of the problem” (Tidwell, 2001)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declared that the ‘warming of the climate system is unequivocal’. The global average temperature has increased approximately by 0.76°C between 1850-1899 and 2001-2005. The IPCC further said that there was a more that 90% probability that the warming would increase in the coming years.

“Given the growing scientific data, my fear is we’re all going to wake up soon and find the places we love totally gone – even in our lifetime,” Mallet(2001). He further added that tourism and travel would mostly suffer with the rise of the sea level by 2100 because it has been predicted that the water level would rise by 3 feet by this time; eradicating resort hotels, beaches, ports and coastal property. The IPCC states that the American coastline welcomes around 180 million recreational visitors annually. The rise in sea level would be dramatic to those regions. Wall(2001) explains that “Clearly, global warming is an issue the tourism industry must – and I think will – pay more and more attention to in the near future”. Wall added that tourism is at risk and now all that the industry of tourism and travel can do is to prepare for and adapt to climate-related impacts which are already occurring. Taking the case of Mauritius, such rise in sea level will be drastic for resorts, because those hotels are situated on the coast lines of Mauritius at maximum 3 metres above sea level. A rise in sea level by 3 feet will cause many of those resorts to mostly disappear and this could cause the end of tourism in Mauritius.

Air travel and transport alone, for example, add more than 500 million tons of CO2 to the Earth’s atmosphere each year, according to the IPCC. And as people travel more, courtesy of ever-rising Western affluence, the problem only gets worse. By 2050, a full 15 percent of the world’s CO2 could come from travel and tourism, according to Green Globe 21. Tha quthor John Berger even said that “We are loving the planet to death”.

Over the years passing , many island nations have fought hard to be heard in the international conferences about the effects of global warming on them. Some islands have already been lost in the Pacific, and the forecast is that many more will go in the coming decades, especially if nothing is done to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions globally. Now the case of the Caribbean islands should be closely studied.

The Caribbean islands, except Cuba and Haiti, are highly dependent on tourism, like Mauritius. Coastal development in the Caribbean for tourism is constantly increasing at a high rate despite a recent decline in tourism. In the Caribbean, tourism accounts for 15% of the gross domestic product, with higher rates in many of its islands, and over 2.4 million jobs (about 16% of the local population). It has also pushed populations towards the coasts because of the various developments. For example, in the Dominican Republic, over 50% of the population lives near coasts where a 3 feet rise in sea level would make them being submerged.

Recently, the Dominican government has received a report detailing that, under their estimates, sea-level will rise by 6 meters by 2050, eliminating the tourism industry and sending the country into complete chaos. The same would happen around the Caribbean. The fast development that the region is seeing may be completely devastated by global warming, and the same case goes for much of the rest of the developing world. The outcome would be to put billions of people in situations of poverty, hunger, and violence.

In terms of economic weaknesses, it was noted that small islands tend to have small economies, small land area and unfortunately do have a limitation of resources, meaning their economy relies on few primary exports like sugar and of course tourism.

Furthermore, the small islands have low resistance to “external shocks” such as natural disasters, political instability, terrorism, etc..(Harrison 2003, Hotiet al.2005). Briguglioer et al.(1996) identified environmental weaknesses which included the threat of sea level rise following global warming, and the location of small islands in relation to phenomena, such as cyclones, hurricanes and seismic activity which can lead to tsunamis and eradicate the tourism industry from a small island in a few minutes.

Chapter 3 Saving the Tourism Industry

3.0 Over reliance over the tourism industry


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