South African airline FlySafair will be introducing a Johannesburg to Mauritius route once the two countries’ borders reopen.

“This is indeed good news for both the Mauritius and South African tourism industries and will provide many exciting opportunities and collaborations going forward. While the travel ban is still in place, South Africa remains one of our top five source markets for inbound tourism and a priority due partly to its proximity to the island,” says Arvind Bundhun, director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA).

FlySafair has been awarded the rights to operate a twice-weekly service between Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport and Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport in Mauritius and marks the first regional route for the local carrier.

“Just a short four-hour flight connects the two countries, and many South African travellers return to the island year after year, considering Mauritius to be their second home. The new service operated by FlySafair will provide further choice to consumers and reinforce and strengthen the flight schedules available on this route.”

Rebuilding the tourism economy

Elmar Conradie, CEO of FlySafair, says: “We’re extremely humbled and grateful for the enthusiasm with which the authorities and people of Mauritius have greeted our announcement. We’ve always prided ourselves on offering a service that is affordable, on-time and hassle-free and we look forward to making that a reality on this connection too.”

With Mauritius announcing the commencement of its Covid-19 vaccination rollout programme, and the first batch of vaccines arriving in South Africa, the MTPA is hopeful that travel between the two countries could be reignited within the next few months. Fifty-thousand front-liners are being considered for the vaccination campaign in Mauritius and, with one of the government’s objectives being to restart the tourism sector in the safest conditions possible, 50% of these work in the tourism sector.

“Rebuilding the tourism sector in Mauritius is vital for the economy and the future growth of the country, so this announcement from FlySafair is particularly welcome at this time. We are looking forward to the day when our loyal travellers from South Africa, a country with which we have enjoyed a longstanding and mutually beneficial relationship, return to our shores again,” says Bundhun.

While the global pandemic put paid to 2020 arrival figures, South Africans accounted for 181,556 of the 1,38 million tourist arrivals in 2019, an 8.6% share.

Covid-19 pandemic action plan

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Mauritius has observed stringent Covid-19 protocols and is today regarded as having one of the world’s best responses to the pandemic. Strict quarantine measures and thorough testing protocols have been in place since the outbreak, with the hotel industry playing a key role in offering accommodation for confinements.

The country received a 100 on the Oxford University Stringency Index, which tracks government policy and action regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the country has seen an increase in demand from visitors looking to relocate to a Covid-safe environment for work, leisure or retirement.

“We are confident that, with the strict health and safety protocols in place across the island, visitors will feel comfortable to travel here again once the travel ban and quarantine periods have been lifted. And now, with another airline operating weekly flights between Johannesburg and Mauritius, this gives the consumer more options and flexibility when making the booking,” says Bundhun.

Read more from BIZ Community