Indian Ocean isles eye tourism rebound in 2010

Thu Jan 21, 2010 11:03am EST
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By Richard Lough

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - The Indian Ocean's luxury island destinations eye a tourism rebound in 2010 after receipts fell sharply last year despite better than expected arrival numbers.

The azure waters and palm-fringed beaches of Mauritius and the Seychelles may be among the world's top holiday spots, but the global downturn still forced the rivals to slash prices to keep market share.

"The visibility that we have for the first three or four months of 2010 is quite positive and encouraging. It seems people have started to travel more," Patrice Legris, head of the Mauritius Association of Hoteliers and Restaurateurs (AHRIM), told Reuters.

Mauritius posted record visitor numbers in December, boosting 2009's overall tourist arrivals which reached 871,356, down 6.5 percent on the previous year.

But Legris said he expected tourism receipts to be down by 13 to 15 percent on 2008 because of a strong local unit and aggressive discounting.

AHRIM's data showed tourism accounted for 7.4 percent of GDP in 2009, against 9.4 percent and 8.7 percent in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

Revenue falls are set to be more severe in the Seychelles where 2009 receipts are expected to sink by up to 20 percent from more than $320 million a year earlier -- key for a nation whose entire gross domestic product is below a billion dollars.