A lone fisherman manoeuvres his small boat along the east coast of Mauritius, near Ile aux Cerfs. File picture: Reuters

The number of tourists visiting Mauritius rose 0.5 percent year-on-year during the first six months of 2012, helped by a rise in arrivals from Asia that offset a drop in travellers from its core market in Europe, official data showed on Tuesday.

A decline of 6 percent in European tourists to 279,643 - still around two-thirds of arrivals - was partly offset by an increase of 16.7 percent in visitor numbers from Asia to 51,353, Statistics Mauritius said.

The number of visitors from China climbed 58.8 percent to 9,633 arrivals as the country starts to see the benefit of efforts to diversify into new markets, the data showed.

Tourists from France, the Indian Ocean island's single biggest market, fell 8.4 percent to 137,412.

Tourism typically generates about 10 percent of gross domestic product for Mauritius' $10 billion economy.

Mauritius is a popular holiday destination, famed for its azure seas, white beaches and luxury spas. But the European economic slowdown has weighed heavily on tourism and the government is keen to develop new Asian markets.

Government expects tourist arrivals to grow 1.6 percent to 980,000 this year while the Bank of Mauritius expects tourism earnings for the year to climb to 43.2 billion Mauritius rupees from 42.8 billion thanks to higher arrivals. - Reuters