Q & A: Philippe Espitalier-Noël, CEO of Rogers
MGT: What has been the approach taken by the Rogers Group with regard to ‘golf tourism’ in Mauritius
Over the last few years, our approach has consisted of stepping up our touristic offer in the Bel Ombre region. We were amongst the first in Mauritius to embark on this new trend after the Mauritian government launched the Integrated Resorts Scheme back in 2002, when we chose to enhance our property ventures with luxury villas and a world-class golf course in the South West. The golf course experience at Heritage Golf Club became available as from 2005. Since that time, this course has attracted many players of different levels of ability. The pinnacle was reached with the first edition of AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open in 2015, which has contributed greatly to the popularity of Heritage Golf Club. Today, we continue to develop new forms of tourism, amongst which golf tourism, which remains one of our major targets in Bel Ombre.
MGT: As CEO of the Group, what would you consider to be the unique attributes of Heritage Resorts?
I am very proud to announce that Heritage Le Telfair just received the 2018 Golf Digest Editors’ Choice Award for ‘Best International Resort in Mauritius’. This recognition is the summit in terms of golf rankings in the world. It’s difficult to top such an award!
Moreover, the Heritage Golf Club has, for the fourth consecutive year been voted the ‘Best Golf Course in the Indian Ocean’ at the World Golf Awards. This, in itself, is no mean feat. Our teams work very hard, all year round, to achieve this result. Golf is a precision sport, and we pride ourselves on having beautifully manicured greens and fairways that offer incomparable comfort to players.
At the same time, we are also aware that our biggest asset is the Heritage Bel Ombre domain as a whole, which boasts of beautiful beaches, as well as 2,500 hectares of unspoilt nature, with its green hills, rivers and waterfalls… We have a unique offerings in the form of two five-star resorts; top-notch villas that can be considered ‘a home away from home”; a twelve-point culinary palette that sublimates the local flavours; spa and wellness offerings, amongst many other services.
We do not only cater for golf enthusiasts on the estate. We have something in store for nature addicts, for sea lovers, for sports freaks; as well as for those who prefer a nice stroll down memory lane, admiring one of the domain’s highlights, Le Chateau, the Anglo-Indian colonial style family house and its garden, that has been freshly restored to its former glory, and that can even accommodate curious tourists for the night. Heritage Bel Ombre, as a new service brand, has been focusing on great – and personalised – customer experiences, on creating the perfect backdrop for a memorable tailor-made holiday… at least one that makes our guests want to come back. Our ambition is to be able to convey all the richness and subtleties of the Mauritian lifestyle.
MGT:The AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open has created a growing awareness of the destination and the unique golfing experience on offer. With Heritage Golf Club having hosted two tournaments, what has been the outcome?
Hosting a €1 million tournament tri-sanctioned by the Sunshine, European and Asian Tours, like we did three months ago, undoubtedly brought world attention to Mauritius as a destination, but also to Heritage Bel Ombre, which represents a unique offering in Mauritius. This colossal sporting event – in fact the biggest sporting event to be organised in our country – has also helped to put the island on the golfing map. We are now considered as a golf tourism destination in our own right and this is a very interesting selling point for Mauritius, as well as for Heritage, which prides itself on being a destination within the destination.
With more than 40 television teams on the domain during the tournament, we potentially reached 500 million homes worldwide. As a marketing tool, it is a significant event as it provides unparalleled visibility to our country’s fantastic attributes. It allows us to showcase the know-how of Mauritius Inc. in fields that range from sport to hospitality to real estate, touching on travel, and even financial products. The dynamics that were created around the competition serve to promote the country and to draw public attention to what it has to offer.
For Rogers Group and Heritage, this demonstrates that we are operating successfully at the top of worldwide benchmarks in our service lines.
In addition, here in Mauritius, golf is currently growing at between a 3-5% increase in rounds per year. The island is being recognised as a golf tourism destination, featuring top resorts that are backed up by great championship golf courses.
MGT: With what Mauritius has to offer and the golf real estate opportunities like Villas Valriche, is it correct to say that that Mauritius has everything necessary to attract the most discerning golfer?
Mauritius is indeed highly ranked amongst tourist destinations. Also, what we, as a Group, have in the Southwestern region of the island, is truly a gem. We have created an estate of national significance. Our initiatives began early on, when the Integrated Resort Scheme was first launched, and more than ten years later, we are still selling high-end villas to discerning clients who appreciate the generous offerings of our estate. Of course, this also means that we need to continually enhance our service line and property offerings in this region to consolidate and keep adding to the beauty of our unique ecosystem.
MGT:What projects or new developments do you have in the pipeline that would appeal to our readers?
One of the ambitious goals Heritage Bel Ombre has set itself for 2018 is to start the construction of a second golf course. This decision to commission a second 18-hole championship course on the resort is consistent with our vision, and in direct relation to the increasing demand for golf on the resort and we are only too happy to be able to provide our guests with a second course in the near future; a course that has a unique position in the gorgeous Savanne landscape.
For this new project, we have secured the help of Louis Oosthuizen, who currently ranks amongst the world’s 30 best players. Together with the renowned African golf course architect, Peter Matkovich, who created our first championship course, Louis Oosthuizen will bring his expertise as a golf player to the design.
We wish to capitalise on the spectacular ocean, mountain, and forest setting. Our ambition is to come up with a championship course that is the perfect mix of breath-taking views and verdant fairways to provide a fantastic experience to all golfers. We are confident that we will be able to come up with a totally different offer that will complement our existing golf course.
MGT:As the CEO of Rogers Group what special message can you send to invite golfers worldwide to discover what Heritage Resorts has to offer in terms of golf experience.
Bel Ombre and Heritage offer a winning formula to adults and families looking for relaxing and entertaining holidays. As a Group, Rogers has always been very proud of the Bel Ombre region and everything it has to offer. Bel Ombre carries a sense of place that we, in the Group cherish. Its natural setting makes it special, and over the years, we have transformed it; where we had primary economic activities like sugar, we now have mostly tertiary oriented sector activities with a strong socio-economic focus. We continue to work on consolidating and enhancing our leisure and events components. Already, golf enthusiasts who come to our resorts or villas can enjoy a lot more than just a good game of golf.
Following a major rebranding exercise undertaken last year by Rogers Group together with its subsidiaries, Heritage Bel Ombre offers a lush bouquet of experiences, that encompasses sports facilities (like kite surfing) permanent cycling tracks, trekking circuits, as well as specialist wellness, culinary, and cultural offerings.
But above all, we, as a Group, have committed to protect this land, and to preserve our marine and terrestrial ecosystems for future generations by implementing sustainable and inclusive development practices. For instance, both Heritage hotels are Green Key certified – this being a voluntary certification awarded to hotels that promote sustainable tourism. If you visit Mauritius, you can find all the facets of the island in our relaxing, beautifully manicured and preserved environment. But the only way to be sure about all this, is to come and see for yourselves!