Mauritius’s borders will effectively remain closed for leisure travel during the peak December- January period, following its government’s decision to extend quarantine regulations until January 15, 2021. The move is another blow to outbound agents and operators who are missing out on December holiday bookings to South Africa’s favourite island destination.
TAG’s Jonathan Gerber, told Tourism Update that South African travellers did not have an appetite to visit Mauritius while the 14-day quarantine requirement remained in place and that this meant that the island’s borders were effectively still closed to short-term leisure visitors.
Mauritius’s regulations require travellers to self-isolate in a hotel room for 14 days before they may visit the various beaches and resorts on the island. Guests are not allowed to leave their rooms and are provided with meals, hygiene and sanitary equipment, which are delivered to the doors during quarantine. The average South African leisure-based stay in Mauritius ranges from seven to 10 days.
“The quarantine regulations have made a massive difference to what we sell, as Mauritius has always been one of our top destinations,” said Gerber. “It is astounding how governments have chosen to react to this virus. While we understand that it is important for government policies in a country like Mauritius to be cautious – where self-isolation is difficult due to the dense housing conditions in its villages – it does not make sense why travellers, who are able to provide negative PCR tests proving that they do not carry the virus, must quarantine for 14 days.”
He added that while TAG’s Mauritius specialist brand, Beachtag, had not yet reopened its doors, its team had been kept busy selling packages (but with reduced numbers) to other island destinations through TAG’s Hashtag brand.
MD of World Leisure Holidays, Ramesh Jeenarain, said while the quarantine extension was not good news, it had been anticipated. He explained that the decision had most likely been made due to the surge in infection rates in Europe, which were primary source markets for Mauritius. He was hopeful that infection rates would have decreased, and that some movement with vaccination distribution would motivate an easing in quarantine regulations by January 15. “This may still allow us to salvage the last few weeks of the January school holidays,” said Jeenarain.
CEO of Thompsons Holidays, Joanne Adolphe, said it had also anticipated that quarantine restrictions would not be over any time soon. Thompsons has been promoting sales to Mauritius from June 2021 onwards and has been actively promoting beach destinations, such as Zanzibar, Seychelles, Maldives, Dubai, Madagascar, Mombasa and Mozambique, in the interim.
“We have been in close contact with our ground handler in Mauritius and have taken the stance that we don’t want to take clients’ money for short-term gain if it seems unrealistic that a trip will go ahead. We understand that the Mauritius government has implemented its quarantine regulations for the health and security of both the Mauritian nationals and our passengers and we have to trust that they are doing the right thing for their country,” said Adolphe.
Andrew Stark, MD MEA of FCTG, said Flight Centre Travel Group had been promoting Mauritius for travel during the 2021 Easter and July school holidays. Flight Centre forecasts that there will be some sort of confirmed flight schedule in and out of Mauritius, and an easing in restrictions, by that point. “One destination’s demise is another’s rise,” commented Stark, adding that Zanzibar had been lapping up Mauritian demand for December.
Carla da Silva, Air Mauritius regional manager Southern Africa and Latin America, said she remained hopeful that Mauritian borders would reopen next year.