Mauritius remains an unknown country for most Koreans and Japanese

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I am a Korean living and working as a pastor at the Mauritius Presbyterian Church. I have lived in South Africa and Japan, and I wish to share some thoughts about the country’s tourism industry.

In 2019, I was helping a friend of mine, who was showing Chinese tourists around, especially in Stellenbosch, South Africa. My friend, who majored in tourism, was looking at the possibility of diversifying the tourism industry, dependent on Europe for the past 30 years. He saw China as a vast potential tourism market for South Africa.

However, during one of the tours, I ventured to ask the Chinese tourists a very simple and direct question: ‘Would you like to visit South Africa again?’ Sadly, most of them answered unequivocally that South Africa has amazing tourism resources, but they had no plans to come back again. Given the prevailing culture in Far East Asia, where it is considered rude to disappoint your interlocutor directly, such an answer was quite unusual, and I wanted to know the reasons. Luckily, the Chinese tourists were forthcoming and mentioned three reasons.

First, the unstable security situation in South Africa was a major cause of concern for tourists from Asia, where security is relatively stable. This was difficult for British tourists in South Africa to understand.

Second, South Africa’s cuisine. For the Chinese tourists, South African food, though not tasteless, lacked variety, and they found it rather disappointing to be eating the same food in any city in South Africa.

Third, the distance. Given the absence of a direct flight from China, the flight to South Africa excluding stopover took more than 24 hours, that is more than twice the time it usually takes to fly to the United States.

South Africa’s tourism industry remains highly dependent on European tourists and shows no signs of changing in the future. However, the situation in Mauritius is a little different.

Personal security in Mauritius is incomparably better than what obtains in South Africa. One can also find good Chinese restaurants wherever you go around the island, and Mauritius is relatively closer to Asia.

Although the tourism industry here is still heavily dependent on Europe and South Africa, we find more and more honeymooners from China and Korea coming over and enjoying a pleasant time at luxury resorts. However, the number of family tourists from Asia is relatively small, but there is scope for bringing in more tourists.

First, there’s need for more direct flights from Asia. The favourite tourist destinations for Koreans can be reached by direct flights; on the other hand, it takes 48 hours, including transit time, to get to Mauritius from Korea. This is too long compared to the 6 hours it takes to fly to the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Second, convenience facilities for family tourists and backpackers should be created. Most European family tourists rent a car at the local airport. For foreigners, it is very difficult to move around the island. City sightseeing (like in Cape Town) on the double decker hop-on-hop-off buses, and day tours around the island (again, just like those to Cape Point and the Wine Country in South Africa) will surely interest tourists here.

Last, tourism info for Asian tourists should be updated. Mauritius remains an unknown country for most Koreans and Japanese; even the Internet is not of much help. A Korean broadcaster should be approached to advertise the Mauritius destination, and tourism brochures and other relevant documents in Japanese and Korean should be made available.

Mauritius is like a shining pearl of the Indian Ocean. I wish my friends in Asia could enjoy this pearl more.

Rev Inkyu Choi
Mauritius Presbyterian Church

* * *

 Summer by the sea

It’s so beautiful to stop and see

Watching children smiling so bright

Having fun in the warm summer sunlight

Feeling the warmth

On my face

Mauritius is such a beautiful warm sunny place

Tasting the sweetest fruits

Watching butterflies flow

Oh how I love the summer days

Smiling so bright

Kissing my beautiful wife

All the songs we sung

Beautiful and bright

In the warm summer sunlight

It’s truly beautiful

To see the little birds singing

To me it’s summer time

I’ll remember this summer’s day

All my memories will never fade away

Oh how I love summer time in Mauritius every day.

David P Carroll
UK

* * *

Straight jacket

Growing up as a teenager in Mauritius I met some housebound ladies in the villages who told me that they have never set eyes on the ocean – and this on an island barely forty miles long.

Strangely I never considered myself confined in space although a brief overview of the island and its dependencies will show that I actually was. Briefly, Mauritius is the main island in an archipelago comprising Rodrigues, Diego Garcia, Agalega, Tromelin, and others which we will disregard for the purpose of this writeup. Still, one has to bear in mind that there is vast unexplored potential in their fishing and maritime resources.

Aside from Rodrigues I have never been to any of these places: Diego Garcia was ceded to the USA by the British and is out of bounds even to its native inhabitants due to secretive military infrastructure; Agalega is distant and, I believe, at first the British and now the present government dissuaded visitors. Although officially denied, it is believed that India is building a naval base there to extend its naval reach.
Thus it is readily seen that most Mauritians are de facto unable to visit other parts of their island dependencies. Not so apparent but nonetheless true is the fact that most Mauritians live in a narrow strip adjoining the main arterial roadways crisscrossing the island. The vast outlying land areas used to belong to the sugar estates and were practically out of bounds and patrolled by armed security guards or cowboys. This situation has changed somewhat nowadays but I suspect, not much.
In my own case I did not travel to these unfamiliar or off-limits places due to other factors such as, for example, lack of means or lack of ambition…much like the aforementioned old ladies who had never set eyes on the sea.
Lastly, I cannot but help thinking that most Mauritians have a certain passiveness in their DNA… similar to those born in slavery and among those brought in as indentured labour, earlier pejoratively referred to as “coolies”. All capitalist systems use the modern equivalent of slaves or coolies, such as in the NHS and in the bandagleshi garment factories, but differing only in degree.
Hopefully we will have a more vocal and assertive populace that can exert pressure on the government to open up public access throughout the archipelago. I cannot claim to fully comprehend the complexities of the situation, but I believe such access should be a topic for national debate.

Farook Hossenbux
A retired physician living in Ottawa, Ontario Canada

* * *

Jawaharhal Nehru

I thought that this 14 November, organizations that are lovers of India would organise a Nehru Jayanti event. Nehru, as all politicians, has his admirers and critics but he stands out as a giant among world leaders and his contributions have helped his country gain a status commensurate with its size.

Nehru inculcated democratic habits among his fellow citizens and saw to it that democratic values are enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Consequently, a plural India was meant to give security to its various components. Whenever Indians feel that that their rights are trampled upon, they take to the streets… the latest example is the Kisaan movement. Being referred to as the biggest democracy of the world gives the Indians a priceless pride in their country.

Promotion of secularism is another achievement of Nehru and that has served India well by maintaining its unity. India can serve as a model to nations which are increasingly becoming multi-racial and multi-religious. There are two Sudans but only one India.

The most durable legacy of Nehru to the world, according to me would be the creation of the Non- Aligned Movement, NAM, with the inputs of stalwarts like Nasser, Sukarno, Tito and Kwame Nahkruma. NAM tried hard to stay away from the bipolar world divide and hastened the decolonisation of Asia and Africa. The NAM has played a fundamental role in the preservation of world peace and security, has opposed apartheid and other forms of racism, foreign occupation and domination, been pro-disarmament and in favour of restructuring of the international economic system. With NAM, the geography of the world has definitely changed for the better.

It gives an uneasiness when attempts at demonizing Nehru take vile forms, like dropping him from textbooks and only highlighting his weaknesses and failures, thus justifying in Shakespeare’s words: “the evil that men do lives after them…the good is oft interred with their bones”.
I leave historian Srinath Raghavan’s remarks as my conclusion: “Decisions by leaders are made in real time, and not by scholars in retrospect. One must visualize the circumstances in which Nehru was placed. The luxury of simplified hindsight, as we often use it, blinds us. The lessons of history are useful only if they help us overcome that visual incapacity and understand not only those aspects on which a blinding bright light tends to shine typically but also the rest of the picture that exists in the shadows.”

Dawood Auleear
Triolet


* Published in print edition on 19 November 2021

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