from HANS KANHYE in Port Louis, Mauritius
PORT LOUIS, (CAJ News) – MAURITIUS, the Indian Ocean island, is poised to live up to its potential as a gateway for business in Africa following the country’s official airline signing a major deal creating a link to Asia.
Air Mauritius has signed an agreement on an Air Corridor with the Singapore Changi Airport in a deal officials believe will bridge Asia and Africa and vice versa.
It is anticipated the Air Corridor, which will resume operations in March next year, would bring greater connectivity between the various African countries and Asia, unleashing the potential African businesses that have hitherto been crippled by the absence of a regular route for their exports to Asia.
It is envisaged the corridor will also provide businesspeople from both continents the opportunity to prospect new markets for their products and services.
Prem Sewpaul, Communications Manager of Air Mauritius, told CAJ News, thanks to the various rebates that Changi Airport will offer, tariffs could become more competitive along this corridor.
Under this agreement Changi Airport will offer several incentives to Air Mauritius including a financial contribution of some S$2 million (US$1,43 million) and preferential rates on airport rates.
“Tariffs could become more competitive along this corridor,” said Sewpaul.
Sewpaul expressed confidence the deal would bring a substantial growth in traffic in the Southern and Eastern African Region.
“This agreement has the blessing of the Mauritian Government and is complementary to our burgeoning strategy for a regional airline,” said Sewpaul.
The watershed agreement between Air Mauritius and Changi Airport is seen as holding the potential of radically altering business and transport in the region.
Furthermore, it will assist in promoting the airline and the Mauritian destination at fairs, road shows and other fora.
This agreement will also take on board the subsidiaries of Singapore Airlines, namely Silk Air and Tiger Airways. Observers estimate that there is a potential market of 10 million passengers, especially through greater
connectivity with the world’s biggest tourism market, China.
The African tourism sector, including the Mauritian one, will be one of those that will benefit directly from this windfall, as there is a potential of around 10 million tourists along this corridor. Growth will be enhanced with the arrival of low-cost flyers like Ryan Air. These operators have preferential agreements with airports that enable them to cut costs further.
Observers are unanimous to say the agreement marks a crucial junction in the history of the national carrier as it will enable it to refocus on growth and get ready to play a greater role in the region.
Furthermore, this also represents a boon for the tourism industry which can now access far more direct flights between Asia and Africa.
With tourism a promising, high growth industry and this corridor will pave the way to the world’s two biggest reservoirs of tourists, China and India.
Mauritius has always maintained privileged diplomatic relations with these two juggernauts, especially as people of Indian and Chinese descent account for more than half of the population of about 1,3 million.
Nevertheless, the Government of Mauritius, which is the majority shareholder in the national carrier, is treading with caution.
“This agreement is only a commercial collaboration between two parties and not a strategic partnership,” said Prime Minister Aneerood Jugnauth.
Changi is a leading aviation hub in Asia, connecting more than 300 airports and cities around the world.
This major economic centre employs 28 000 people and handles 55 million passengers as well as 2 million tonnes of freight annually. The 120 airlines that service the airport create dense traffic, with an estimated 350 000 aircraft movements per year.
It is also famous for having bagged several accolades in the Asian aviation industry during the last decade.
Due to its strategic position, Mauritius was known as the “star and key” of the Indian Ocean. Mauritius became an important base on the trade routes from Europe to the East before the opening of the Suez Canal.
With the agreement between the country’s official, the Southern African country looks set to maintain its standing as a key trade and tourism base.
– CAJ News