- History and Culture
As with many other sugar factories, Bel Ombre’s profitability started to gradually decline from the 1980s onwards. A restructuring plan was put in place in the 1980s to bring the number of factories on a national level from 14 to 5. However, it is to be noted that concentration of sugar factories started as early as the mid 19th century but was very gradual. The largest number of sugar factories in Mauritius was in 1863, when there were 303 factories around the island and within less than fifty years, in 1898 the number of factories was already down to 99. In 1913, there were 58 and in 1933, only 42. A new phase of centralization was started after World War II which brought the number of factories further down.
 Alain Huetz de Lemps “L’évolution récente de la culture de la canne à sucre à Maurice”. Cahiers d’outre-mer.
Bel Ombre’s topography and isolation was again to play a role in its history. The terrain on which the sugar cane was growing led gradually to a loss of the top soil, which diminished its yields. In 1989, it produced only 20,000 tons per year, in comparison to the larger factories which produced 50,000 a year. At the same time, its isolation meant that closure of the sugar mill would increase the costs of transport and put many small planters cultivating on mountain slopes and depending on the factory in a difficult situation. Although the proposal of closure was already tabled from the 1980s, it is not surprising that the closure did not occur until later.
With dwindling profits, Bel Ombre relinquished parts of Chamarel and Bon Courage. The inevitable eventually happened when the factory closed in 1999. Upon closure, the 153 workers employed at the factory itself took their retirement.Two years later, another 204 employees opted for a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), a scheme negotiated by the sugar industry representatives, the government and labour unions with the financial support of the European Union. The sugar cane was diverted to the factories of Médine, St. Felix and St. Aubin and sugar cane coverage eventually decreased by 50 percent. The Compagnie Sucrière de Bel Ombre at this time counted 418 employees.
From that time onwards, the process of developing Bel Ombre into a prime touristic region started. Four hotels were built along the coast as well as an 18 hole golf course and high end residential compounds. The Chateau has undergone extensive rehabilitation and resumed its central position as ‘The Plantation House’ offering a unique experience of the island art de vivre.
Nature tourism activities also abound with the nearby reserves and native forests.
The 105 acres of lagoon connected to Bel Ombre shelter multiple ecosystems home to a rich biodiversity including not less than 70 species of fish and many other species of marine organisms. This pristine maritime environment is one of the best preserved around the island. It is in the process of being declared a ‘Voluntary Marine Conservation Area.’
Yvan Martial, Compagnie Sucrière de Bel Ombre, Notes d’Histoire