Mauritius finally drops the Carnival plus Shopping Fiesta

MAURITIUS TOURISM MINISTER CONFIRMS THE END OF THE CARNIVAL SHOPPING FIESTA

The Mauritius Minister for Tourism Michael Sik Yuen confirmed before parliament in Port Louis yesterday what has been rumoured from the grapevine for weeks now, that there will be no repeat of the ill conceived erstwhile rival Carnival then turned into the Shopping Fiesta which hardly was.

Launched in 2012, ostensibly, going by usually well informed sources from Port Louis, aimed by the MTPA management to stub the nose of fellow Vanilla Island partner Seychelles by doing a copy / paste of their success story, the festival never took off but nearly caused a diplomatic cold spell between the two tourism islands.

It required too big an organization’ was the minister quoted as having said in parliament, all but accepting that his MTPA failed to accomplish what the Seychelles have been doing for years and with several high profile festivals spread across their annual calendar, starting from the Carnaval de Carnivals, aka the Carnival International de Victoria to the Festival of the Sea, aka SUBIOS, with many more top rated events hosted in between.

The minister was also taken to task over MTPA’s failure to draw the promised raffle prizes for the 2.000 or so raffle tickets sold at the Shopping Fiesta and gave a new date of May 31st for the draw after two postponed dates in the past.

Sources immediately contacted in the Seychelles declined to be drawn into speculation over the reasons behind the ministerial statement that no future such festival would be held, although one regular source, on condition of anonymity for not being an official spokesperson, said: ‘Mauritius participated in our Carnival this year and got a lot of praise for their performance. Their team even won second prize as runner up foreign participant. The Seychelles support events staged by Vanilla Island tourism organizations which has an own calendar of events. This is a good framework to cooperate and give each other visible support. It is about being present and promoting our entire region for tourism. We hope that maybe next year Mauritius may be on board as a co-sponsor, like La Reunion has done since our Carnival was launched in 2011, and like Zambia and Zimbabwe and Madagascar this year. The more the merrier it will be and the publicity we get all over the world is shared in equal terms with our partners. Mauritius’ tourism industry is about 5 times our size, we are no competitive threat to them and we cooperate on many levels. About those reasons, we have no information right now but it was their decision’.

From this correspondent’s perspective, the decision to dial back a few notches and perhaps re-invent Mauritius’ tourism with a set of homegrown solutions and by promoting their own indigenous cultural events, will stand the island well and can hopefully revive the flagging fortunes Mauritius has seen in 2012, when it slipped behind the Maldives as the most visited island in the Indian Ocean region. Watch this space for breaking and regular news updates from the Indian Ocean islands.

6 Comments

  1. It’s hardly surprising that Michael Sik Yuen found he lacked the organisation to put on these events when he sacked the only two people capable of delivering them. The Mauritians proved themselves at this year’s Carnaval International de Victoria, but two days after the group’s return home the architects of that success were fired. That was quite impressive decision-making from a man whose interest in carnival appears to be the chance it offered him to handle the Brazilian assets he hired so expensively at last year’s Flic en Flac Carnival.

    The decision must put in doubt the Mauritian ‘Dance of the Sea’ group’s attendance at Zimbabwe’s inaugural carnival in Harare. In Seychelles, there was even discussion, I understand, about a possible invitation to Notting Hill Carnival in London, which would certainly have offered Mauritius the chance to gain a lot of valuable publicity in one of the country’s core markets. That opportunity may also have been lost.

    There’s certainly a need to develop the existing indigenous events. There are also huge opportunities to develop tourism that’s based on environment, history and culture, which would have the benefit of spreading visitors’ spending more evenly around the country and getting more of that money going directly to ordinary Mauritians rather than just the big all-inclusive resorts. However, all this requires the tourism ministry and the MTPA to understand Mauritian tourism. And I am not convinced they do. From my contacts and regular reading of the local media, the impression I gain is that what tourists want and what the MTPA thinks they want are very different things. There is an arrogant mindset that refuses to listen to advice or to update its views. The hotels clearly recognise this and are immensely frustrated at the way they are effectively being left to do the MTPA’s work.

    A report in L’Express (‘Hôtellerie: Une surcapacité «insoutenable»’, 18 May) warns of overcapacity in the Mauritian hotel industry leading to damaging price competition, low occupancy, falling profits and, in some cases, serious financial difficulties. None of this should come as a surprise: the global financial crisis is in its fifth year and there have been loud warnings about the incessant hotel building and IRS schemes. But arrogance doesn’t listen to warnings.

    Still, if you’re a sultry samba dancer visiting Mauritius, the minister will personally ensure he is fully abreast of your desires and lend a hand to prove that “(pour) Maurice, c’est un plaisir”!

    1. As always Stephen, your insight and competent and well informed response adds immense value to my readers. Thank you for sharing this information and I entirely agree with your assessment, Tourism Mauritius needs a fundamental change, at the ministry and even more at MTPA.
      Shame the Mauritius tourism industry suffers from having such ‘leadership’ imposed on them.
      W.

  2. Good grief did you expect the new Mauritian Carnival concept to be a multilevel success, then you set yourself up for disappointment and failure.
    Instead of learning, making necessary changes and moving forward, the event is canned just another Mauritian malfunction because you expected as much.
    To pull off big events takes audacity, proficiency and performance, the need skills could have been acquired over time.
    Stephens response reflects the same condescending mindset. What is an “ordinary Mauritian” I was at the Carnival as a tourist and saw Mauritians proud to be Mauritians and enjoying themselves these very same are now being robbed again of any opportunity to express their Mauritian heritage.
    Why compare Mauritius to any other destination. Mauritius is unique just as every Mauritian is. Why are you selling yourself short of a wonderful heritage.

    I do agree with the statements that are being made about an over developed hotel industry getting out of control thinking that building more will lead to more tourists.

    1. Sorry, Tsogosun, if you thought I was being condescending – not the intention at all. I agree, the carnival could have been developed into a success over the coming years had it been given the chance, but it wasn’t. As I said, getting rid of the two people responsible, who had at least acquired valuable experience from putting on the Carnaval de Flic-en-Flac, was not the brightest move. It seems to have been motivated more by political expediency and personal antipathy or jealousy than for sound business reasons.

      By ‘ordinary Mauritians’ I mean anyone who isn’t a government minister or one of the elite who own most of the land, big hotels and major businesses in Mauritius – ie the people who run small businesses, taxis, shops, bars or whatever, yet find themselves excluded from a great many of the practical benefits and the big bucks that tourism is meant bring. Focusing so much of the tourism promotion effort on gated resort hotels is overheating the coastal strip – increasingly being placed out of bounds to ‘ordinary’ Mauritians – while leaving the interior underdeveloped in tourism terms.

      Of course Mauritians are ‘proud to be Mauritians’ and there’s no doubt that a lot of Mauritians did have a good time at the carnival, even if some of them spent more time in traffic jams than enjoying the spectacle. But how do you express “Mauritian heritage” at a parade of Brazilian samba dancers and Disney characters? Many Mauritians made the same point, but much more forcefully, in the media after the event.

      But the carnival wasn’t put on as an entertainment for Mauritians. The Brazilians, the Miss World contestants etc were flown in at great expense to Mauritian taxpayers with the aim of attracting tourists from overseas and getting them to stay longer in the hotels and spend more of their cash in the shopping malls. I have no quarrel with the concept, only its execution. If it failed in its aim, it was because the events were not publicised early enough or vigorously enough in the country’s core tourism markets. I have seen no convincing evidence that this expensive initiative achieved its stated objective of bringing in more tourists. In today’s media-saturated world, publicity has to be at the heart of event planning, and it simply wasn’t for the carnival and shopping fiesta. For the past three years, Seychelles Tourism Board, and this year also the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, have shown how to promote a carnival.

      No one wants to set up Mauritius for failure, but the MTPA seems to do that quite well on its own. Last year’s ridiculous spat with its Vanilla Islands partner, Seychelles, hardly got its own event off to a good start. Maybe it is unfair to compare, but people will do so nonetheless (not least when choosing their holiday destination), and sometimes Mauritius doesn’t come out of that comparison very well.

      As you say, as a destination Mauritius is unique – a point well made at the press launch of this year’s Carnaval International de Victoria by Seychelles’ tourism minister Alain St Ange, who highlighted the distinctive and separate qualities of all the Vanilla Islands partners.

      We both agree that Mauritius should play to its strengths. It just needs to recognise that its strengths don’t encompass samba dancers and shopping fiestas!

      1. Stephen thank you for expanding and clarifying the issues regarding the Carnival giving me a deeper and clearer understanding of the complex issues
        behind that event.
        As you rightly pointed out it was paid for by taxpayers money therefore the invested interests should have gone back to the taxpayers and not the oligarchs
        Mauritius is a brand and could be so much bigger than a seaside holiday resort unfortunately that is the marketing mindset of local advertisers. The Mauritian Carnival just another Dodo, very sad.

        Wonderful blog BTW.

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