Mauritius: Interview with Dr Karl Mootoosamy

Dr Karl Mootoosamy

Director (Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority)

Dr Karl Mootoosamy

Mauritius is currently going through a phase of transformation from a middle income to a high income country. How do you think this moment has to be managed in order to keep growing?



In order for us to manage this effectively The Ministry Of Finance is preparing a blue print focusing on realizing the inclusive high economy vision. The blue print aims to identify the main pathways that can be followed  to  reach that vision along with the appropriate policies and actions that we can undertake.



One of the tourism sector‘s main challenges is to be developed as a whole; counting not only with good hotels, but with a variety of quality services and adequate infrastructure. In that context, how would you say Mauritius Tourism sector is exploiting its potential?



MTPA is dedicated to ensuring equal development across the whole destination as exemplifed by our investment in a new airport terminal. A total of Rs 1 billion has been invested allowing for a much larger terminal which covers a total surface area of 57 000 m2.  This will allow for further development as the runway can now accommodate bigger airplanes like Airbus A380 allowing more visitors to the destination and will, in the future, handle 4 million passengers annually against 2.7 million last year.



Since December 2013, we have a daily A380 that comes to Mauritius and new airlines such as  Dreamliner  and TUI Nordic have also expressed their interest in serving the destination.



The recent coming into operation of a new and modern airport is an essential element in the economic strategy of the country. Its facilities and its frequent links by several key airlines will further consolidate the position of Mauritius as a hub for the region.



Visibility is crucial to be known as unique, meaning no only being attractive to the eyes of travelers but also pop out when comparing with other similar destinations such as Seychelles or Maldives, where tourism grew 15% last year when Mauritius only grew 1%.  What would you say Mauritius has been lacking in order to potentiate its growth? What actions are you taking to improve Mauritius numbers?



Europe is one of our main source markets and subsequently the euro crisis had a significant impact on the number of tourist arrivals.  As a result of this, the government took bold measures to rebalance growth and diversify its markets in order to counteract this effect.  The government has invested in 3 direct flights to China to tap the potential growth in outbound tourism from this emerging market. This has been met with much success with an increase of 100% in tourist arrivals from chine in 2013. MTPA is committed to development new markets for the destination and particular focus is on Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia  in order to attract more visitors to the island.



The global economic crisis extended its effects to worldwide economies. In the case of Mauritius, the tourism sector was one of the most affected. What were the main challenges it brought to you and how did you face them?



The main challenge we faced was the need to adapt our product to the emerging markets of Asia. In partnership with the private sector we developed new service offerings to cater to the needs of the visitors who were looking to find new and diverse experiences. Some hotels also recruited translators to ensure that guests were as comfortable as possible during their stay.



We found that, for the Asian market, our cultural diversity and peaceful safe environment proved most attractive and we ensured that historical sites were promoted in the itineraries while service providers also developed ecofriendly products.



MTPA was established in 1996 to increase Mauritius international awareness and make of the tourism industry a strong economic pillar in the country. How has been the evolution of the MTPA through all these years?



One of the key roles of MTPA is to work closely with the private sector to ensure that the destination always gains competitive edge by reinforcing its quality product offering.  We have MTPA representatives in both Europe and Asia who regularly carry out surveys of market trends, customer buying behavior and needs in order to ensure that we adapt to changes in the market to improve our destination. We pride ourselves on the fact that we are always listening to customers and responding to their requests so they have the best possible experience of Mauritius.



As an island, Mauritius depends highly on its connectivity in terms of ports, airports and ICTs. In which way the MTPA contributes to improve these conditions? Do you create strategic alliances with the private sector, local and internationally?



Through our close work with the private sector, MTPA regularly sponsors joint promotional campaigns with airlines to trigger growth in demand while also working with airlines to service potential markets in order to continuously promote the destination.



Due to economic factors, worldwide conditions have changed and this has affected the number of tourists coming to Mauritius.. What are the main segment of tourism (business, leisure, research, medical…) you are focusing on right now and which strategies you are implementing to attract them?



Cruise generates important revenue to the economy and we are currently in discussions with Costa Croiciere to home port in Mauritius.  One of our aims is to attract more cruise lines to the destination and promote the Indian Ocean region. Additionally, Medical Tourism is a growing sector and Mauritius is well positioned to attract visitors from Africa and the region looking for quality care.



In which countries are you concentrating your efforts?



Currently, our primary focus is on the emerging markets in both China and the Middle East



Mauritius has been acknowledged numerous times with international awards such as The Most Outstanding Leisure Destination, World’s Leading Island Destination and Leading Indian Ocean Wedding, Diving, Beach Destination. What would you say is the key of this success?



I think that the key elements that have contributed to our success are our quality driven and customer focused approaches.  We are constantly thinking of new ways to innovated our product portfolio always ensuring that we cater to the varied needs of the different market segments.



We believe that every company needs to have a clear set of goals but it is the vision of its leaders what can make it reach these objectives. As the director of MTPA, where do you see the organization in the next 5 years?



Within the next five years MTPA will focus on improving, even further, its offerings by  reengineering itself and streamlining  administrative processes in order to allow us to react, even more quickly, to changes in the market.



From a more personal perspective Dr. Mootoosamy, we’d like to know about your professional background and also, from all your years of work what do you feel most proud of.



 I hold a doctorate in humanities with distinction from the Sorbonne and was a visiting Professor in Arts and Literature.



As Chief Executive to the Office of the President of the Francophone movement, I was responsible for policy and strategy and led several international cooperation missions to Benin, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Cambodia, Vietnam, Tunisia and Morocco.



In 1998 I took the challenge of driving  the destiny of the tourism industry in Mauritius as Director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority.



I am convinced that the destiny of the island lies in a top-quality tourism industry, I led promotion missions in more than 50 countries around the globe to consolidate and improve the image of the Mauritius destination.



In 2010, I was instrumental in bringing the Indian Ocean islands together and creating the Vanilla Islands platform, which includes Mauritius,Reunion,Seychelles,Madagascar,Comoros and Mayotte.



Today, my contribution speaks for itself as the tourism industry has risen to become one of the main engines of growth of the Mauritian economy, and Mauritius is known as one of the best island destinations worldwide.



To conclude the interview, our readers are more interested in the person we interview than on the company or institution itself. In this context, what message would you like to send to our worldwide readers of Harvard Business Review?



As you can see from my background I have committed my life to the island; I would go as far to say Mauritius is an extension of my existance, for that reason my profesional and personal life is dedicated to growing tourism.



As I continue to hold my position at MTPA I want to introduce more international visitors to the beauty of the country, inviting them to explore its forests, mountains and long stretches of coastline whilst experiencing the diversity of the cultures that exist side by side.



We have already achieved so much which is evident in our hotels, spas, golf courses and rich array of products, but we must never grow complacent and as we enter a new era I will continue to dedícate my work to the country to lead it into prosperity.