Celebrations around the island, new aircraft for Air Mauritius and hotel refurbishments mark an anniversary year, finds Katherine Lawrey
This year will be a special one for Mauritius as the Indian Ocean island marks 50 years of independence. Every year on March 12 Mauritians enjoy a public holiday to celebrate the anniversary of independence from Britain, although it remains a part of the Commonwealth. However, this year the celebrations will be extended across the island throughout the year, including ceremonies, live music, street parties and performances.
Vijaye Haulder, acting director of tourism for the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, says: “With the excitement surrounding the upcoming 50th anniversary of independence celebrations this year, visitor numbers are on the rise with a predicted 6% increase year-on-year. This is a fantastic opportunity to really showcase some of the highlights of the island to both return visitors and those who are experiencing it for the first time. From the diverse mix of cultures to the island’s signature culinary delights and the warm welcome from the local people, 2018 is a year of celebration with a big focus on the cultural and historical aspects of the island.”
It’s also an exciting time for national carrier Air Mauritius, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary by investing in new aircraft. In October 2017, Air Mauritius took delivery of its first A350-900. This was the frontrunner of an order for eight new Airbus aircrafts due to be delivered within the next five years, including six A350-900 and two A330neo aircraft. The new A350s are set to improve standards in terms of passenger experience, operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness, and will also significantly reduce the airline’s environmental footprint as they burn 25% less fuel and create 25% fewer carbon emissions.
The 326-seat A350 replaces the A340, which has 300 seats at most. This will represent approximately a 10% increase in capacity for the European market. The aircraft also offer a more comfortable flying experience with quieter cabins, wider seats and the latest in-flight entertainment systems.
The first two A350s have been deployed on the Paris Charles de Gaulle-Mauritius route, and further new aircraft are likely to be in operation on the direct Heathrow to Mauritius route by late 2019.
To meet increased demand from UK holidaymakers travelling to the island, British Airways added two extra flights a week direct from Gatwick for the 2017-18 winter season, bringing departures up to five per week.
Hotels have also been sprucing up in time for the anniversary year. Lux Grand Gaube has been completely reimagined by British interior designer Kelly Hoppen, with a $32 million renovation project that saw the resort reinvented as a retro-chic tropical retreat. New restaurant and bar concepts include a Rum Treehouse; the G&T 100 Club; Inti, the island’s first Peruvian-Argentinian restaurant; and Beach Rouge for toes-in-the-sand dining. A new Lux Me Spa devotes more than a hectare of land to wellness. Chelsea Flower Show winner Stephen Woodhams has designed the gardens, while London-based French artist Camille Walala has created colourful original murals for the resort.
The One&Only Le Saint Geran reopened in December after extensive refurbishment to reveal brand new guest rooms and suites, several new culinary experiences and a completely reimagined spa.
Earlier this year, the Victoria Beachcomber Resort and Spa introduced its new adult-only wing, the Victoria for Two. Accommodation consists of 40 two-person terraced rooms that open up to the marine park and private beach. Nearly half of these are the first Swim-Up rooms to launch on the island – they are sea-facing and open out onto an 800sq m pool.