But not according to Prime Minister Ramgoolam. To him, the new commercial centre represents another reason for holiday-makers to visit our shores: shopping tourism. We do not share his optimism.
So who will come shopping here? Wealthy Europeans? Why should they when they can have a much greater choice and better prices at Dubai airport, transit hub for Emirates? Travellers not only enjoy one of the world’s top ten airlines (far surpassing Air Mauritius which doesn’t even provide first class seats), they also benefit from being picked up closer to home from regional airports. What about the nouveau riche from South East Asia? Well, they are spoilt for choice with 2 duty free shopping islands in Malaysia (not to mention its world class shopping centres in Kuala Lumpur) and the superb Singapore airport right on their doorstep.
So, globally speaking, Bagatelle is a thing of little importance. Except for Mauritians, to whom it represents another step closer to European living standards. As long as you have a car. However, the MID working groups, criticised the development of out-of-town shopping centres as contradictory to the principles of sustainability for the following reasons:
- They promote consumerism.
- They promote the use of private transport, hence increasing congestion, GHG emissions and energy use.
- They are incompatible with the light railway between Curepipe and Port Louis.
- They take up land that could have contributed to the nation’s food security.
Why on earth don’t we actually implement the light railway and then regenerate urban centres like Curepipe and Rosehill? Because we have a government with no coherent strategy; who manage our country reactively and by the “flavour of the month“.
Worse than being short-sighted, they are continually destroying our priceless assets. Not least of which is Mauritius’ tourism image – “the model for Heaven”. The brand has been progressively watered down by Duval’s embarrassing slogan “it’s a pleasure”, the unsustainable and probably unachievable “2 million tourists by 2015” and Jugnauth’s “duty free shopping paradise”. By greatly increasing the number of rooms in the midst of a global recession, our hotels are having to compete with each other as well as other destinations to fill them. To reduce costs, service and quality are being sacrificed along with our reputation as an exclusive and luxurious destination. Need we mention the added stress on our lagoons which are already ecologically devastated? As we warned years ago, they are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
And that means destroying the prosperity of future generations. Why do we let them get away with it?