"The idea behind the proposal is to ensure that tourists do not have to constantly convert foreign exchange that they are carrying on their visits."

Our Bureau

New Delhi, Feb 14

INDIA and Mauritius are looking at whether the Indian rupee can be used by Indian tourists visiting the island, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Leisure and External Communications, Mr Charles Gaetan Xavier Luc Duval, said here on Tuesday.

"The issue of whether Indian rupee can be used by Indian tourists is being examined by the central banks of the two countries. The idea is to ensure that tourists do not have to constantly convert foreign exchange that they are carrying on their visits. The proposal, if accepted, will be applicable only for tourists coming to Mauritius and not other Indians," Mr Duval said.

The proposal is one of the several measures that are being examined to facilitate travel of more Indians to Mauritius.

There has been a steady increase in the number of Indians visiting Mauritius. During 2005, more than 29,000 Indians visited the country and the number of visitors from India is likely to cross 55,000 by next year, senior officials said.

Meanwhile, to facilitate direct air travel between India and Mauritius, Air Mauritius plans not only to increase the number of flights that it operates to India but also operate a bigger aircraft.

"From April next year, the airline plans to start operating Airbus A-340 aircraft to India. This will have more than double the number of seats being offered on the route," a senior Air Mauritius official said. The existing aircraft can only carry about 170 passengers, he added.

The airline's plans for India include operating a daily flight to Mumbai and increasing the frequency to Delhi. The Government of Mauritius is also keen that an airline from India starts operating regular flights there.

The Deputy Prime Minister also invited Indian industry to invest in Mauritius.

The two countries have also decided to further strengthen cooperation in the area of tourism and culture and have agreed to exchange expertise in the area of island tourism, human resource development and joint marketing of tourism destinations.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 15, 2006)
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