herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

Inside the murder hotel where dream honeymoon turned into a nightmare

There is a great irony in the fact that Legends Hotel in Mauritius did not have a room 24 or a room 74.

The Singaporean Feng Shui master who advised the architect, Chuah Kee Aun, decided that the numbers were associated with death, and were considered too grim to be mentioned at the resort under the Feng Shui policy adopted by the hotel.

The Feng Shui theme of the resort was supposed to differentiate Legends from its many competitors on the Indian Ocean island.

It is not the main reason such a large number of Irish honeymooners go there. In the word-of-mouth circles that dictate honeymoon destinations, the resort has got a good name.

Mauritius is one of our top three long-haul honeymoon destinations, and the hotel is brochured by some of the leading tour operators in the resort.

Anyone visiting a travel agent will be told about Legends within a few minutes of sitting down with the agent. Among the things honeymooners are told about Mauritius is that it is safe.

Mauritius is one of the richest countries in Africa, with one of the lowest crime rates, higher than Western Europe but better than any most of the honeymoon alternatives in the developing world, and certainly better than the Caribbean.

Because it was built in 2002, and has been overtaken in the luxury stakes by some more modern all-inclusive options, such as Paul et Virginie next door, its price suited most Irish honeymoon budgets.

For a manageable amount it serves up the classic barefoot luxury, palm tree (in Legends' case banyan tree) luxury that honeymooners like, or are conditioned to like. It has a narrow crescent beach, resembling a lagoon, infinity pools, four fine dining options, spa, a 60-seat cinema, tennis courts and gym, with windsurfing, snorkelling, water-skiing and mini-sail options, and excursions to the fairytale Ile des Deux Cocos.

Mauritius has acquired a big reputation for a small place. The island is the size of Co Wicklow, and Grand Gaube, where the hotel is situated, is where you would put the postage stamp on Co Wicklow. The island does not do mass market and has never allowed charters in.

Successful

Its target is honeymooners and couples with their higher spend and low attrition rates and it has been amazingly successful in capturing this market.

There is no confusion about what Mauritius does. The ebony forest and the dodo, its two distinctive features, were both eliminated 200 years ago. It is a beach only destination. There are no distractions.

In the short term the repercussions for the industry will be severe. Honeymooners being murdered is bad for business.

In future they may not have a room 1205 at Legends. It will be associated with death forever, far more than room 24 ever was.

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