Touria Prayag's Blog

Killing the goose… 3 October 2013

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on January 23, 2015

This week, the local press has echoed the complaints of the small business owners who are worried that tourists these days are not purchasing local goods and participating with small, local businesses.

Nearly 500,000 tourists visited our island during the first six months of this year, an increase on last year’s figures and the year before that. So, theoretically, the small businesses should not have any reason to complain. Theoretically, we say.

It is true that the big players are raking in handsome profits. It is equally true that the tourists are spending less and the all-inclusive packages offered on our main markets for tourists do not encourage them to leave their gilded compounds. But that is only part of the story.

The tourist – particularly the European one who is still our staple in spite of the crisis in Europe – does not really want to leave his hotel, all-inclusive or not. He has worked hard the whole year, spent the brightest period of the day imprisoned in his office, lost colour and has been starving himself to lose weight to be able to see his pleasing refl ection in our azure-blue lagoons. So, all the time that he can afford to take off work is devoted to tanning and putting all the weight back on. Our hotels have caught onto that and have been offering him exactly the experience he is looking for: sun, sea, beaches and a great amount of force-feeding.

However, for those brave tourists who really want to go out there and find out about the local culture and try the local goods and cuisine, what exactly is on offer for them? A couple of restaurants do offer tourists a truly gastronomic experience of venison, wild boar and other local delicacies and make the tourist’s effort of leaving the hotel worthwhile. Often, however, the tourist has to make do with an overpriced rougaille and curry Zak served in ‘nature’ – read: the tourist will be eaten alive by mosquitoes. Other restaurants offer a view of our beach picnickers engaging in the local Briani-eating tradition while hiding from the sun and avoiding the water at all costs before turning away and leaving all the rubbish for someone else to clean. The restaurant will have the price list of reasonably-priced, pompous-sounding pizzas. Once in, the tourist will find out that the Rs300- pizza served on an old checkered table cloth has canned mushrooms as a main ingredient and that the bottle of water and the barely drinkable coffee he ordered on the side cost more than the pizza itself. He won’t show his shock but he will talk about it around him.

Now, when it comes to the taxi that takes him to the restaurant, perhaps the less said the better. Taxis have no meters, charge according to the means of the tourist and have no qualms about it. One taxi driver has been quoted in a daily newspaper – while complaining about the lack of business – as saying the following: “Previously, I never used to transport Mauritians. I had enough tourists and they pay so much more.” If they ‘pay so much more’, then there is a word for that: swindling. And once they know they have been swindled, do you blame them for sticking to the hotel’s five-meals-a-day?

What is the other part of the story, I hear you ask? The mere short-sightedness in our way of conducting business on the island. Maybe if we were long-term in our thinking and stopped perceiving the tourist as the ultimate cash cow we would have less to complain about in the future.

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