St. Ange re-elected as Vanilla Island cooperation president


Madagascar, La Reunion, Mayotte and the Comoros have during the just concluded annual meeting of the Vanilla Island cooperation proposed, and subsequently voted, that Seychelles’ Minister for Tourism and Culture, Alain St. Ange, should serve a second term of office for the organization.

St. Ange’s mandate was due to run out next week and on the basis of a rotating chairmanship or in this case presidency, a member from another Vanilla Island was due to take over. The four though would have none of this, considering the immense personal effort and initiative St. Ange has in recent years put into the Vanilla Island concept, and upon a short consultation, re-elected him. Notably was Mauritius absent from the ministerial meeting, prompting industry observers to speculate over a continued lukewarm attitude towards intense cooperation and joint marketing of each others’ attractions.

The meeting resolved, among other issues, to push ahead with key areas of mutual interest and concern, such as:

* Air access within the Indian Ocean zone and particularly markets such as China

* Vanilla Island branding and visibility at tourism trade fairs starting with Top Resa in Paris and ITB Asia in Singapore

* The next ministerial meeting to be held in the Comoros

* The inclusion of Maldives as a fully member within the organization as from the organization’s next Ministerial meeting

* The inclusion of affiliate members Rodrigues of Mauritius, Nosy Bay of Madagascar, Praslin & La Digue of the Seychelles at the next Ministerial Meeting

* Drafting of a charter of sustainable tourism practices for the region

The extraordinary meeting was attended by Mr. Didier Robert, President of the Conseil Regional de La Reunion, Tourism Minister of Madagascar Mr. Jean-Max Rakotomamonjy, Tourism & Culture Minister of the Seychelles Mr. Alain St.Ange, Mrs. Hissane Guy of the Comoros Tourism Authority and Mr. Michel Ahmed of the Mayotte Tourism Authority.

Speaking to gathered press after his re-election as the President of the Vanilla islands, Minister Alain St. Ange of the Seychelles said that he was humbled by the support received by the other members states. ‘Their resolve in supporting my leadership and their unity in wanting to see our regional organization work for the benefit of our respective island economies, of our tourism industry and for the well being of our people was really appreciated. We are now set to the consolidation of our Vanilla Islands’ the Seychelles Minister, Mr Alain St.Ange said.

The cooperation has since its formal launch put together an annual calendar of events, the islands agreed to support to the fullest extend and participate fully in the promotion of such events across the islands.

Mauritius’s already suspect stand vis a vis the Vanilla Island organization may have taken a further knock, according to one source in Port Louis, when it became known that the Maldives will be admitted to the organization as a full member, in particular as the rivalry between Mauritius, erstwhile the number one in the Indian Ocean region for tourism arrivals, had to make way for the Maldives. It was also the Maldives which scooped the most awards and recognitions at the recent World Travel Award Ceremony, held in the Maldives for that matter, inspite of a relentless campaign by the CEO of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority Karl Mootoosamy, to be crowned ‘best tourism board’ from among all the Indian Ocean island destinations. The failure to accomplish that objective seems to have returned the embattled head of MTPA into a lager mentality, which while presently speculation is nevertheless supported by the fact that Mauritius was absent on ministerial level for the most recent meeting.

Congratulations to Minister St. Ange and watch this space for continued reports and breaking news from the Indian Ocean islands.

2 Responses

  1. Once again the attitude of the MTPA towards its neighbours in the Indian Ocean is a source of puzzlement and despair. Yes, all the islands are to some extent rivals, but so they are with every tourist destination on the planet. However, as Alain St Ange is astute enough to realise, they can also gain mutual benefit through co-operation and collaboration.

    An obvious example is cruise tourism, as no single island has enough to offer to attract an operator, but together the IO countries make an excellent, varied cruise circuit. Similarly, unified promotion of festivals and events across the region would create an entirely new kind of tourism that doesn’t currently exist. Some forms of tourism need critical mass of a kind that small islands on their own simply don’t have. That, of course, is not the same as ‘mass tourism’ – something that the IO islands would be well advised to leave to the bargain basement destinations.

    The Caribbean countries realised this long ago by banding together under the umbrella of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, which recently hosted a media networking event in London. That sort of approach is what’s needed now from Vanilla Islands – it’s time to start pushing the concept out to the media and the operators. I look forward to seeing a VI stand and brochure at the WTM in November.

    But of course that can only work if everyone plays the game by the same rules, and it seems that once again Mauritius prefers to sulk on the sidelines. How Mr Mootoosamy imagines this to be a sharp, customer-focused strategy that will generate more trade for the country’s struggling hotel sector is a mystery that few can fathom.

    The continued paralysis in Mauritian tourism promotion may have something to do with the strained relations between tourism minister Michael Sik Yuen and his party leader Xavier Luc Duval ever since the former sacked Robert Desvaux as MTPA chairman without reference to Duval. Sik Yuen was summoned to explain himself last week for failing to appear at party rallies, and although Duval appeared to want to pour oil on troubled waters, the row clearly isn’t over. It’s a distraction that the government, Sik Yuen and Mauritian tourism can all do without.

    In the meantime, the MTPA and its parent ministry are behaving like the infamous ‘Angel 1’ bulk carrier whose engines failed in 2011, causing it to drift on to the reef off Poudre d’Or, leading to panic that its fuel tanks would rupture, pollute the lagoon and leave a dirty black stain over Mauritian tourism. After a lot of effort, the ship was safely extracted from the reef and towed out to sea – where it sank without trace.

    Let’s hope that isn’t a harbinger of what lies ahead for the Mauritian tourism industry!

    1. Again thanks Stephen for sharing your insights and knowledge of the going ons’ behind the scenes at MTPA. A very sad case of misunderstood competition where cooperation is needed but then, it is after all Karl and his bunch of merry meddlers we are talking about here. Unless he goes, and seemingly the Minister too, I have no hope for fundamental change in the direction tourism promotion in Mauritius is taking.

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