PORT LOUIS (Reuters) - Tourist arrivals in Mauritius are expected to rise to the one million mark this year after numbers barely changed in 2012, largely due to sluggish growth in the island's key European market, data showed on Thursday.
Arrivals are seen increasing by 3.5 percent this year from the 965,441 registered in 2012, when they rose just 0.1 percent, the country's statistics agency said.
Finance Minister Xavier Duval said earlier this month lower dependence on Europe for tourists and exports has helped the Indian Ocean island weather the economic crisis better.
The government expects the economy to grow 3.7 percent this year, up from 3.3 percent in 2012.
"Visitors from Europe which represented 67 percent of arrivals in 2009 have been declining to 58 percent last year - a drop which has been compensated by higher tourists from other regions namely Africa and Asia," Duval said.
He expected a boost in arrivals this year as Air Mauritius starts direct flights to China and Russia.
Statistics Mauritius said arrivals from Europe were down 8 percent year-on-year to 560,699 while visitors number from Africa grew 14.7 percent to 265,215.
(Reporting by Jean Paul Arouff; Editing by James Macharia, John Stonestreet)
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