Tourism remains incredibly important for island destinations – and that trend shows no signs of slowing down or reversing. The tourism industry provides business opportunities and contributes to economic development on islands.
But research shows that the tourists of the 21st century are more demanding and have different needs. Tourists are always in search of unique opportunities.
Mauritius has adapted to tourists’ more sophisticated demands by diversifying its offering to them. The island has developed a variety of entertainment opportunities aside from the traditional beach tourism. As a result of this work, tourist numbers have risen compared to previous years. For example, Statistics Mauritius shows that more that one million tourists visited Mauritius in 2015 compared with 934,827 in the year 2010.
This doesn’t mean that entertainment was the only reason for the rise in tourism. Between 2005 and 2010 tourism climbed from 761,000 to 935,000. That can be attributed to a number of things such as technological development, government support, pro-tourism policies and opening up air access to other airlines.
But according to our research in the last five years we found that entertainment was the biggest pull factor. This means that tourism destinations and businesses should have better knowledge so that they can capitalise on this new form of diversified tourism.
Tourism and entertainment
Mauritius has, for example, begun to offer activities like scuba diving, parasailing, water-skiing, deep sea fishing and catamaran sailing.
These activities have been shown to attract more tourists as well as retaining them for longer.
Integrating entertainment also helps to preserve natural and cultural resources.
A country’s tourism and entertainment industries are mutually dependent on each other. Tourism is about relaxation, escapism and enjoyment. All of these are also key to entertainment. For example, traditional sega dances on a catamaran trip in Mauritius combine the two.
Tourist entertainment in Mauritius
A study I conducted with a colleague set out to establish the link between Mauritius, tourism and entertainment.
Mauritius has gone through five stages of tourism entertainment since 1968. These are introduction, development, commercialisation, consolidation and revamping.
It has capitalised on its sea, sun and sand to market its offering. The study also revealed that nearly 90% of the tourists who visit the island are drawn by the water and beach activities. But Mauritius has developed a diverse set of attractions over the decades. These include:
- Cultural celebrations and festivals
- Sports and competitions ranging from tennis competitions to beauty contests
- Conferences, shows and exhibitions like concerts and musical shows
- Water-based activities like deep sea fishing, catamaran, parasailing and scuba diving
- Nature-based activities like trekking, paragliding and nature trail hikes
- Heritage attractions like Porlwi by light
- Wellness and spa services like aqua yoga, wellness and fitness programmes
- Shopping, gambling and night life and,
- Technology-based entertainment like 3D, 4D shows and films, drone aerial activities and interactive games
These activities have resulted in tourists arriving from a more diverse set of destinations including Russia, China, Scandinavia and Turkey. Previously tourists visiting the island came mainly from Europe and India.
Lessons from Mauritius
African islands have similar resources and face similar challenges to Mauritius.
To succeed, they must adapt to changing tastes and needs. They must therefore acquire a deeper understanding of the need of their current and potential visitors, the type of experiences they’re looking for and the type of activities they want.
These islands must explore the potential of entertainment and study the possibilities of how it can be integrated into existing tourism activities. But this needs to be done wisely so that natural and cultural resources are not affected and commercialised. Tourists are always interested in experiencing authenticity.
African island destinations could diversify their tourism development with a variety of entertainment opportunities that are customised to modern tourists. But the crucial point is to adopt and implement a sustainable approach and planning of their natural and cultural resources. And let’s not forget the interests and aspirations of local communities.
Mauritius is doing this extremely well. For example, hotels in Mauritius give local artists the opportunity to perform traditional shows, like sega dancing. The island also supports community-based tourism where tourists visit local communities and consume traditional food and delicacies prepared by locals.