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Mauritius Seeks Asian Tourists as Europeans Stay Away

Mauritius is seeking to boost tourists arrivals from India, Russia and China by almost 50 percent this year as travelers to the Indian Ocean island from Europe decline.

“We are aiming for as much as 120,000 visitors from these countries in 2012,” Tourism Minister Michael Sik Yuen said in an interview yesterday in the capital, Port Louis.

Total arrivals, which advanced 0.6 percent through May, are below forecasts from Statistics Mauritius for the period. While tourists from Europe, the main market, dropped 4.9 percent in the five months because of a debt crisis and recession in some of the region’s economies, arrivals from India, Russia and China rose 27 percent to 41,151. Europe accounted for about two-third of 964,642 tourists to Mauritius last year, while 81,213 came from those three countries, according to the statistics agency.

Tourism is one of the country’s biggest foreign currency earners. Revenue rose 15 percent to 17.6 billion rupees ($568 million) in the four months through April, according to the central bank. Arrivals fell 0.2 percent during the same period. The statistics agency has forecast 980,000 tourist arrivals for 2012.

“Successful implementation of marketing strategies and resolving of landing rights issues would lead to Mauritius reaching the one million visitors mark,” Sik Yuen said.

Air Mauritius Ltd., sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth-biggest airline, is cutting unprofitable long-haul flights to Europe this year. Asian airlines have expressed interest in increasing weekly flights or starting routes to Mauritius, the minister said. A Chinese airline has been given landing rights and the opening of a new airport next year will help to boost arrivals, he said.

Leisure stocks, led by New Mauritius Hotels Ltd., which account for 10 percent of the 38-member SEMDEX index, are the worst-performing on the Stock Exchange of Mauritius this year, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

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