Mauritius’ tourism revenue for 2009 will be poorer than previously thought despite signs the sector will rebound to help spur economic growth of 4.3 percent on the Indian Ocean island next year, officials said.

The Central Statistics office (CSO) said in a statement seen by Reuters on Thursday that tourist arrivals this year were expected to decline by 9.7 percent from 2008 to 840,000.

‘According to the Bank of Mauritius, tourism receipts for 2009 will be around 36.0 billion rupees ($1.20 billion) — down 12.6 percent — compared to 41.2 billion in 2008,’ it said.

In August, official forecasts showed the island’s tourism industry generating 38.2 billion rupees, a fall of 7.3 percent on the previous year.

The tourism sector is an important driver of the roughly $9.8 billion economy. But the global economic slowdown has hurt long-haul, high end destinations like Mauritius.

Best known for its azure waters, white beaches and luxury spas, the Indian Ocean nation has pursued an aggressive international marketing campaign and its hotels have offered big discounts as it fights to maintain market share.

Finance Minister Ramakrishna Sithanen said in his budget speech on Wednesday that he would give tourism chiefs an extra $11.37 million to continue marketing Mauritius.

Sithanen said $450 million dollars was being spent on upgrading the international airport. A new $17.39 million passenger terminal at the port would be fully operational next year to bolster growth in the cruise-liner industry.

The CSO said the average room occupancy rate for the first nine months of the year was 58 percent. During the first half of 2009, room occupancy was at 59 percent, compared with 71 percent during the same period last year.

Mauritius, a nation of 1.3 million people, aims to more than double visitor numbers to 2 million in the next six years.