Mauritius is offering long-term visas for remote workers while seeking wealthier holidaymakers to boost tourism revenue, with visitor numbers unlikely to match pre-pandemic levels for as many as four years.
The Indian Ocean island nation is offering a so-called premium visa, which allows people to work remotely from the country for as long as a year, and wants richer tourists to make extended trips, said Nilen Vencadasmy, chairman of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority.
“We are looking for digital nomads, who can plug in and start working from anywhere in the world,” he said in an interview.
The visa is one of a range of strategies to attract visitors after Covid-19 slashed numbers from about 1.4 million a year, equivalent to the population, to practically zero as the island famous for attractions such as Mont Choisy beach and Le Pouce mountain closed its borders.
Hospitality staff were thrown out of work and the collapse took an almost 63 billion Mauritian rupee ($1.45 billion) chunk out of the nation’s annual gross domestic product, the executive said.
About 2,000 applications for the premium visa have so far been approved, Vencadasmy said, adding that the island’s relatively advanced business infrastructure and judiciary is an advantage.
Caribbean islands have implemented similar programs and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this month said the creation of a remote-working visa is being considered.
The average length of tourism stays has gone up to about 15 nights from 10 before the pandemic, pushing average revenue per tourist to 84,000 rupees from 45,000 rupees, Vencadasmy said. Some of that is due to currency depreciation.
“We assumed that people would travel less but for longer periods,” he said, “And this is exactly what we are witnessing since we’ve reopened.”