More than 30 pleasure craft owners, tourists, social workers, several tour operators and about 300 inhabitants of coastal villages as well as beach hawkers held a protest yesterday against the Ministry of Tourism and Leisure.
Minister Nando Bodha came under fire for the new regulations which impose a Rs10 charge to Mauritians to gain access to Ile Aux Cerfs and a Rs50 charge for tourists.
The protestors demonstrated yesterday on Ile aux Marginy, a location where the Ministry of Tourism and Leisure relocated most of the “grill-men” who were initially operating on Ile aux Cerfs.
The protesters were also angered by the decision of government to relocate all the grill-men to another nearby islet and an additional fee of Rs50 which they will have to pay to government for every “package” (boat transfer to and from Ile aux Cerfs including barbecue lunch) sold.
Social worker Georges Ah Yan said that the announcement of Mr Bodha last week is “completely unacceptable”, adding that if Mr Bodha does not reconsider the Rs10 charge for access to both Ile aux Cerfs and Ile Trou Vire, he will take the state to court.
Mr Ah Yan said that Ile aux Cerfs and Ile Trou Vire are both part of the country’s national heritage so it is not acceptable to charge Mauritians for access.
He explained that the argument of Mr Bodha that the funds collected would be used for the upliftment of the islets is illogical because Le Touessrok Hotel has leased from the government on the condition that the hotel company would maintain Ile aux Cerfs “green and clean”.
He added that the Rs10 fee “is only a trick” and the charge would be higher in the future. The Opposition will also quiz government about the admission charges in the National Assembly tomorrow.
The President of the Pleasure Craft Association, Mr Prem Beerbul, told NEWSNOW yesterday that all inhabitants of the Trou d’Eau Douce coastal village are angry about this new measure.
“We are not against development or against the government, but there are many issues which we discussed with officers of the Ministry of Tourism and Leisure which have not been considered.
“The decision to relocate the grill-men on Ile Trou Vire is not appropriate because the island is very rocky and not strategically well situated. We also do not agree that the government charges Rs50 per package which tour operators would sell to tourists and Mauritians,” Mr Beerbul said.
The President of the Association of Tourist Operators, Mr Ajay Jhurry, said that Ile aux Cerfs is the jewel of Mauritius as a tourist attraction. But Mauritians who come to Ile aux Cerfs would now have to pay, which is wrong.
“This meeting on Ile aux Cerfs today will press the authorities to reconsider charging Rs10 to Mauritians. We also sell this destination to tourists free, but a Rs50 charge is now another issue,” Mr Jhurry said.
He added that there are many small and medium enterprises who have also been dealt a hard blow with this new measure. All stakeholders would hold a press conference on Wednesday in Port Louis.
By Nitesh Boodhoo