MAURITIUS, ONE OF Ireland’s favourite honeymoon destinations, has suffered a temporary dip in popularity following the Michaela McAreavey murder.
The island has a relatively low murder rate and crime is not a huge issue for travellers there, as we reported earlier this week. However, the death of Michaela at the four-star Legends hotel in Grand Graube on Monday afternoon has shone a spotlight on the tiny Indian Ocean island.
Nandcoomar Bodha, Minister for Tourism in Mauritius, called the island a “land of peace” and reiterated that the island was safe for tourists.
The Irish Travel Agents Association told TheJournal.ie today that they had been contacted by a number of their members to “clarify the situation” in Mauritius since Tuesday morning. They insisted that “people are not necessarily cancelling” planned holidays to the island and that the calls they received were understandable considering the level of press attention the destination had received.
Colm Flanagan of Twohigs Worldwide Holidays, which has specialised in long-haul travel from Ireland for the past 30 years, said that his company uses Legends hotel as one of their accommodation options on Mauritius. He said that while it was “too early to tell” if Mauritius’s reputation with tourists would suffer long-term, he was reasonably confident it wouldn’t. He said:
We have clients who were due to go to the hotel Legends. We offered to change them to another hotel but they said they were happy to go there. People realise it’s a rare tragedy and I’ve never heard of any tourists getting harmed in Mauritius before this.
Mr Flanagan said that the hotel had been in touch briefly with agents but that they are limited in what they can say while police investigations continue. He also said he expected to have a longer conversation with the hotel about its staffing policies. Three members of Legends staff have been provisionally charged in relation to Michaela McAreavey’s murder in what is believed to have been a botched robbery attempt on her room.
Irish travel company gohop.ie changed a competition on their Facebook page today which had previously offered a trip to Mauritius as its prize. It updated the details for the competition this afternoon saying that: “We’re going to change the prize destination to the Seychelles instead.” Referring to the sensitivities surrounding the Michaela McAreavey case, they added: “We hope you understand, and trust us this prize is equally as excellent and also in a stunning destination”.
Brian Sargent, director of Tropical Sky luxury holidays in Listowel, Co Kerry, said that none of their customers have cancelled holidays or honeymoons to Mauritius that they had booked with the company. However, he added that a number have rang in looking for assurance on the security of the destination:
A number of them have rung in to ask, Is Mauritius safe? Our answer is that it has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Something like this would be so high-profile that you would expect that.
Mr Sargent doesn’t expect that Mauritius will suffer any long-term damage as a tourist destination. “It’s a very well-established brand in the honeymoon destination sector in Ireland,” he said. In the short-term though, enquiries about Mauritius to his agency have “dropped dramatically”. He said:
In the last two days, there were pretty much no enquiries about Mauritius at all. In the previous two weeks, we would have had a couple of hundred of enquiries. These wouldn’t all be bookings, they would just be looking for information about the destination, but since Tuesday that has dropped dramatically.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has not released any fresh travel information about Mauritius. “They would generally only make contact in relation to a ‘Do Not Travel’ notice, which would only apply in very particular circumstances to a whole country,” said Mr Sargent.
Rosemarie Meleady, director of runawaybrideandgroom.com, says that her honeymoon travel site does not intend to take Legends hotel off its books. The site’s promotional material said Legends was “the most popular resort for Irish honeymooners last year”. Ms Meleady said that Monday’s tragedy hadn’t affected bookings already made for Mauritius. She said:
At the moment that seems to be the case although it’s only a few days since it happened so it’s hard to say too much. We know the hotel and the couples we have sent there before have had a fantastic time. I think people understand that it is just one of those awful things that happened.
The launch of runawaybrideandgroom.com received a lot of publicity last year when it ran a competition looking for a couple to ‘test-drive’ honeymoon destinations around the world. Lucky newlyweds Mark and Denise Duffield-Thomas won the contest – one of their winning factors was a promise to try and break the world record for the number of wedding vow renewals. One of the 85 places where they renewed their wedding vows was on the beach at Legends hotel in Mauritius.
Mark Duffield-Thomas called Legends “paradise” and that the hotel made their stay “the perfect beach holiday for us”. This was the video report the couple sent from Legends: