MINISTER ST. ANGE HITS THE GROUND RUNNING
(Posted 31st August 2013)
No sooner was Seychelles’ Minister for Tourism and Culture, Alain St. Ange, elected to the UNWTO Executive Committee, did he take advantage of the presence of tourism ministers from the Caribbean region, to discuss closer cooperation between their group, the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Vanilla Islands Cooperation, which brings together the islands off the African continent. St. Ange was earlier this year re-elected as President of the Vanilla Island Cooperation and promptly promoted the idea to include other islands in the Indian Ocean, not part of the original group, to also be included. Launch members were La Reunion, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mayotte, Comoros and the Seychelles with Rodrigues, Nosy Bay, Praslin and La Digue coming on board next. St. Ange however set his sight much higher by inviting the Indian Ocean islands further off, such as the Maldives, Sri Lanka but notably also Zanzibar off the Tanzanian mainland as well as the Mozambiquean islands to become part of the group which primary objective is to promote inter island cooperation and joint marketing activities.
The two groups agreed in principle to organize a meeting alongside the next World Travel Market in London in November this year but until then will the Vanilla Islands Cooperation meet in La Reunion from September 10th to chart our their course forward. Said Minister St. Ange in an emailed communication to this correspondent when asked about the geographical challenges of getting his vision transformed into real cooperation: ‘Yes the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) and the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands Regional Organisation sit on the other side of the world from each other, but our challenges remain the same. We are all small island developing states vulnerable from climate change phenomenon and dependent on availability of good, efficient and regular air access and need to meet as organisations and discuss joint actions to keep our respective islands relevant and visible’. When asked about the upcoming meeting of the Vanilla Island Cooperation Minister St. Ange then added: ‘This meeting will see for the first time representatives from Seychelles, La Reunion, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros and Mayotte joined by Maldives, Rodrigues of Mauritius, Nosy Bay of Madagascar, Praslin of the Seychelles and La Digue of the Seychelles. We need to work with our island brothers and sisters to take their USPs and make them the region’s USPs. We need to develop cruise ship itineraries that will offer the diversity of this region which encompasses Africa, India, the IOC (Indian Ocean Commission) Islands and Asia. We will be even more unique as a region when we work together as a region’.
When meeting his Caribbean counterparts, the Hon. Wykeham McNeill, Minister for Tourism and Entertainment of Jamaica, and the Hon. Stephen Cadiz, the Minister for Tourism of Trinidad & Tobago, Minister St. Ange was accompanied by La Reunion’s Pascal Viroleau, CEO of the La Reunion Island Tourism.
(Jamaica’s Minister for Tourism Hon. McNeill and Seychelles’ Minister for Tourism Alain St. Ange)