Air Mauritius will fly direct to China from July in a move it hopes will help boost tourism in the Indian Ocean island, which is suffering from the downturn in Europe.

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.

This flight is a first step in our development in one of the world's fastest growing economies, Andre Viljoen, the airline's acting chief executive, said in a statement.

With this flight, Shanghai will be the 25th destination for the Indian Ocean island's national carrier and its fourth in Asia. Air Mauritius already flies to Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

The flight will go via Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and will offer connections from and to Reunion, Madagascar and South Africa.

Tourism typically generates about 10 percent of Mauritius's gross domestic product with European visitors accounting for some two thirds of arrivals.