This article has been updated since the original was published.
The Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth, has announced a phased reopening of the island’s borders over the next few months but, according to a Mauritius notification to airlines issued on August 31, border restrictions will stay in place until October 31 and neither aircraft nor passengers will be allowed in, even for transit.
The PM said last week that ongoing repatriation of Mauritian nationals would continue until the end of this month, but from October 1 more flights would be scheduled to and from designated destinations. Mauritian nationals, residents and holders of work or occupational permits will be given priority for travel to the island and the next phase will be considered based on the evolution of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the hopes of South Africans hoping for a holiday in Mauritius this year, were raised last week for both outbound and inbound operators last week, when the SA Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, told a National Press Club event that the government’s next step was to work towards the reopening of international travel, starting with the opening of regional borders, and based on the COVID-19 virus statistics continuing to fall. The minister believes, through regional coordination with regional partners, South Africa could create a “regional travel bubble”.
Md of World Leisure Holidays, Ramesh Jeenarain, told Travel News that the Mauritian government was monitoring infection rates from various source markets around the world and would reassess the situation on November 1 before setting a date for a complete border reopening.
“We are continuing to service enquiries and bookings for December 2020, while we wait for a firm date for the reopening of both Mauritius and South Africa. The confirmation of a specific date for reopening both South Africa and Mauritius is urgently needed to boost customers’ booking confidence,” said Ramesh.
Gm of The Holiday Factory, Matthew Fubbs, said the Mauritian government was following a very similar approach to South Africa’s regarding reopening of borders, and that while The Holiday Factory was ready to assist guests as soon as borders reopened, the company had always assumed that the best-case scenario for reopening would be in December.
SAA, Air Mauritius and BA Comair have been the three dominant carriers servicing the South Africa-Mauritius route, and all three are currently under administration or business rescue. Most travel insurers do not offer supplier insolvency cover for airlines that are under administration, yet, these airlines could restart their routes while still under administration. Therefore, it is as well to know there are limited insured airline options (in terms of travel insurance against insolvency of supplier) available for South Africans wanting to fly to Mauritius.
“While Thompsons supports both SAA and Air Mauritius as the national carriers on this route, there is a lot of uncertainty at play here and we would need to look at the situation when the borders open and the carriers announce their finalised schedules,” said Joanne Adolphe, ceo of Thompsons Holidays. “At the same time, we also have to ensure that we are acting responsibly towards our customers and are advising them about the various business rescue and administration processes of the airlines operating on this route. Air Austral is another option for passengers to consider. It is not under administration and apparently FlySafair and other carriers are eyeing this route.”
Ramesh said it was the operator’s duty to fully inform customers about each airline’s situation when the borders reopen and to give the customer the choice to decide which option suited them best.
“We are all unsure of what the final decisions will be with the various airlines, but I believe strongly that Air Mauritius will not be at risk as it is key to the island’s main source of revenue, being tourism,” said Terry Munro, Beachcomber Tours md.
“We are all clueless with SAA. But some rescue plan is being announced mid-September concerning BA Comair, which, I am sure, will be positive as it seems capital will be injected to relaunch this airline.”
“Over 100 000 South Africans visit Mauritius every year making the route an attractive and viable option for many airlines. The Holiday Factory will continue to offer customers all available options and to allow them to make informed decisions about any risks involved,” said Matthew.
Supplier insolvency cover
Hollard Travel Insurance has completely withdrawn its travel supplier insolvency cover benefit for new policies. Uriah Jansen, md of Oojah Travel Protection, which administrates Hollard Travel Insurance, told Travel News that it was vital for clients to be made aware of the personal risks involved due to the withdrawal of this benefit.
TIC has withdrawn its supplier insolvency cover for BA Comair and Air Mauritius. The insurer offers travel supplier insolvency cover for SAA, only if the travel insurance policy is purchased and issued within 48 hours of purchase of SAA tickets, in full or in part. TIC’s head of travel Insurance, Jason Veitch, told Travel News that there was still too much uncertainty in the market for the insurer to consider reinstating this cover at present.
Travel News contacted Bryte Insurance but had not heard back at time of publication.
Oil slick blues
The August oil spill from the Japanese ship that ran on to a reef near the Blue Bay Marine Park was declared a national emergency at the time, but was contained and confined to the southeast coast.
Terry told Travel News that Beachcomber’s Shandrani hotel management team was conducting a study on whether there had been any damage to the immediate area and would release a statement soon. Shandrani is on the southern shore of Blue Bay.
Ramesh said World Leisure Resorts had not been affected, adding that the Mauritians should be commended for their efforts to contain and clear the oil spill as quickly as possible.
Joanne agreed, adding that she had even heard stories of Mauritians cutting off their own hair to use to contain the oil slick.
The Beachcomber Hotels website reported that thousands of local volunteers had created ‘socks’ stuffed with sugarcane leaves and human hair as floating booms to contain the oil slick. The volunteers were engaged on several fronts at once, including Mahebourg Waterfront, Falaise Rouge, Bois des Amourettes, Beau Plan and Bagatelle. Other volunteers used shovels to clean the oil from the shore.
Both Joanne and Ramesh said the phenomenon of dead whales washing up on Mauritian beaches was still being investigated and had not been linked to the oil spill.