Interview - Boris Reibenberg, Chairman of Tourigolf: “Mauritius remains an outstanding destination for the French”
You have been coming to Mauritius three to four times a year since 27 years. What are your thoughts on the destination?
I first visited the island in 1987 for the Mauritius Tourist Rally organised by Beachcomber and stayed at the Royal Palm, Paradis and Trou aux Biches Hotels. I have been returning quite regularly since then. Actually, there hasn’t been a single year when I haven’t visited Mauritius. I come here at least twice a year for the Easter holidays and the Tourigolf event.
For the last twenty years, I have also been returning to Mauritius in August besides my business trips here. I like the island so much that I don’t always have an unbiased opinion. It is a rather outstanding destination. Mauritius is a safe, friendly and welcoming place. However the airlift is the main problem faced by tourism professionals. The situation is catastrophic. The air tax on the Paris-Mauritius route amounts to nearly 500 euro, which is highly prohibitive compared with many other destinations. A traveller pays almost 500 euro in taxes today when purchasing an air ticket, which covers the price of an air ticket to many other destinations.
The availability of seats is another major issue. I still remember a time when there were 10 to 12 weekly flights on the Paris-Mauritius route using aircraft with sufficient capacity. This is no longer the case with the new air access policy of Air Mauritius and it is indeed a pity. Fortunately Corsair has added flights on the route. The quality of business class products is another issue. To attract quality visitors, the destination requires a quality air transport offering.
Tourist arrivals from France have declined from 282,469 in 2011 to 256,929 in 2012 and 244,752 in 2013. Besides air access, what are the other reasons for this decrease?
Air access remains the biggest problem. It is beyond dispute that it weighs on tourist arrivals from France. Mauritius remains for the French an outstanding destination which is ten times more beautiful, more welcoming and friendlier than the French Antilles, and the people here speak French. But without the required quantity and quality of air access, people won’t be able to come. The hotels can offer the best possible price but tourists won’t come. The first thing to do is to address the issue of air access.
The economic crisis has also obviously impacted the purchasing power of customers and affected their travel decisions. Given the prohibitive price of air tickets, many people are turning to other destinations although they would have preferred to come to Mauritius.
What would you advise to give new impetus to the French market?
There is a need for more aircraft movements but at attractive prices. Another key issue is the quality of the fleet. The aircraft fleet on the Mauritius-Paris route is ageing and that is unfortunate.
You are an avid golf enthusiast. How does Mauritius position itself among golf destinations worldwide?
Mauritius has some quality golf courses and is unquestionably a very beautiful golf destination. The advantage here is that there is only a two-hour time difference with Europe, which is an extraordinary plus. The service is also exceptional, the weather is very pleasant all year round and the hotels are very well priced. A limiting factor is that air access doesn’t keep up.
Tourigolf also has a social involvement in Mauritius. The association has been sponsoring a computer literacy programme for the inhabitants of the village of La Gaulette since 2013...
Tourigolf owes its involvement in this programme to Jean-Louis Pismont (the General Manager of the Paradis Hotel & Golf Club and the Dinarobin Hotel Golf & Spa). He told us about the Fondation Espoir Développement (FED) and we were immediately interested. We have asked our members to contribute 25 euro to a fund to support the Foundation. Last year, we donated Rs160,000 to the FED to help finance a computer literacy programme for the inhabitants of La Gaulette. This year in April, the treasurer of Tourigolf, Arnaud Visbecq and I have visited the village school to hand over certificates to the participants. This year again, Tourigolf will donate an amount of Rs160,000 to the FED. Tourism professionals are generous people and what the FED does is in keeping with our values.
The 17th edition of Tourigolf hosted by the Paradis
The Paradis Hotel & Golf Club has hosted the 17th edition of Tourigolf between 26 May and 01 June 2014. This annual golf event attracted 127 participants, including 88 players and 39 accompanying persons. The Tourigolf association is in its 18th year and brings together French tourism professionals. “Eighteen years ago, a group of friends who were golf enthusiasts encouraged me to try this sport. The small group expanded and we set up Tourigolf the following year. Quite naturally, we tried the Paradis golf course, which is the mythical place to play golf in Mauritius. Since then, we have returned each year for our annual tournament, says Boris Reibenberg. The final of the 2014 edition was won by the Mapfre Asistencia team for the second year in a row ahead of the Corsair, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Amadeus teams.