Mauritius borders will remain closed for leisure travel during the peak December/ January period following the Mauritian government’s decision to extend the quarantine regulation until January 15 2021. The news is a blow to South Africa’s outbound agents and operators, many of whom have year on year depended on Mauritius bookings from families wanting to spend the festive season on our favourite tropical island.

TAG’s Jonathan Gerber, told Travel News that South African travellers had no appetite to visit Mauritius while the 14-day quarantine remained in place. He said the quarantine meant that the island’s borders were effectively still closed to short-term leisure visitors.

Mauritius quarantine is an “in-room” quarantine, requiring travellers to self-isolate in a designated hotel room for 14 days before they may get to a beach or a poolside. Guests may leave their rooms and are provided with meals, hygiene and sanitary equipment which are delivered to the doors during quarantine, so that the guests may clean their rooms.

The average South African leisure-based stay in Mauritius ranges from 7 to 10 days.

“The quarantine regulations have made a massive difference to what we sell, as Mauritius has always been one of our top destinations. It is astounding how governments have chosen to react to this virus. While we understand that it is important for government policies in a country like Mauritius (where self-isolation is difficult due to the dense housing conditions in its villages) to be cautious, it does not make sense that travellers, who are able to provide negative PCR tests proving that they do not carry the virus, must quarantine for 14 days,” said Jonathan.

He added that while TAG’s Mauritius specialist brand, Beachtag, has not yet reopened its doors, its team had been kept busy selling packages (but with reduced numbers) to other island destinations through TAG’s Hashtag brand.

Md of World Leisure Holidays, Ramesh Jeenarain, said that while the quarantine extension was not good news, it had been anticipated. Ramesh explained that the decision had most likely been made due to the surge in infection rates in Europe, which were primary source markets for Mauritius. He was hopeful that infection rates would decrease, and that some movement with vaccination distribution would motivate an easing in quarantine regulations, by January 15. “This may still allow us to salvage the last few weeks of the January school holidays,” said Ramesh.

Ceo of Thompsons Holidays, Joanne Adolphe, said that Thompsons Holidays had also anticipated that quarantine restrictions would not be over anytime soon. Thompsons has been promoting sales to Mauritius from June 2021 onwards and had been actively promoting other beach destinations, such as Zanzibar; Seychelles; Maldives; Dubai; Madagascar; Mombasa and Mozambique, in the interim.

“We have been in close contact with our ground handler in Mauritius and have taken the stance that we don’t want to take client’s money for short-term gain if it seems unrealistic that a trip will go ahead. We understand that the Mauritius government has implemented its quarantine regulations for the health and security of both the Mauritian nationals and tourists and we have to trust that they are doing the right thing for their country,” said Joanne.

Md MEA of FCTG, Andrew Stark, said that Flight Centre Travel Group had been promoting Mauritius for travel during the 2021 Easter and July school holidays. Flight Centre forecasts that there will be some sort of confirmed flight schedule in and out of Mauritius, and an easing in restrictions, by that point. “One destination’s demise is another’s rise,” commented Andrew who said that Zanzibar had been lapping up Mauritian demand for December.

Carla da Silva, regional manager Southern Africa and Latin America, said that she remained hopeful that Mauritian borders would reopen next year.