Tourist arrivals in Mauritius rose by 3.8 percent in October from a year earlier, the government said on Friday, helped by a surge in tourists from China.

Tourism typically generates about 10 percent of gross domestic product for Mauritius' $11 billion economy. European tourists account for some two-thirds of arrivals.

The government said in a statement that 90,616 tourists visited the Indian Ocean island in October, up from 87,340 a year ago. It said arrivals from China rose 161.1 percent and from Switzerland by 56.1 percent.

Last July, national airline Air Mauritius started direct flights to China in a move to boost tourism in the island, which is suffering from the economic downturn in Europe.

Between January and October 764,999 tourists came to Mauritius, up 4.2 percent from 733,996 a year earlier.

Mauritius is a popular holiday destination, famed for its azure seas, white beaches and luxury spas.

But the European economic slowdown weighed heavily on tourism and the government is keen to develop new Asian markets to sustain growth in the sector.