Vanilla Islands group set for La Reunion meeting ahead of UNWTO conference


(Posted 07th September 2013)

Tourism Ministers and their delegations from the Vanilla Island Group are heading to the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion this week for the scheduled meeting to discuss among other agenda items the geographical expansion of the marketing cooperative, aimed at making the organization more inclusive and adding more ‘weight’ to it.

The meeting will be joined by UNWTO Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai who is travelling to La Reunion tomorrow to chair the organization’s Conference on Sustainable Development of Tourism in Islands, for which a host of tourism officials and gurus are expected to congregate on La Reunion.

Both the Vanilla Island grouping and UNWTO are keen to set an agenda for the coming years to promote sustainability in tourism while at the same time more actively engaging with airlines, the main mode of travel to and in between the islands. One regular source from the Seychelles in fact pointed out that ‘… one of the key issues the Vanilla islands will have to discuss is how best to bring in the big global cruise lines on board and convince them that cruise itineraries to and among the Indian Ocean island countries is probably one of the best new trends they can set and then follow. Like with Caribbean cruises, the Indian Ocean islands offer an enormous variety of different ecosystems and different cultures, spanning from the islands off the African coast to the Maldives and Sri Lanka. You see volcanic islands, granite islands, coral islands, atolls, they are all different from each other. There are big islands like Madagascar where tourists can explore the national parks and see the lemurs or small islands like we have in the Seychelles. Cruise lines can now safely return to these Indian Ocean waters since new security measures have been put into place and our part of the ocean is still strongly patrolled by the naval coalition. Hosting cruise ships in our harbours for a day or a night is a huge bonus for our economies. All the main islands have airports and flights connecting them to Europe, directly or through the waypoints of the Gulf, and a cruise ship is the best bet right now to let tourists see the islands because air connections are still difficult.

Visitors can fly into one island and board their cruise ship and fly out of a different point when the segment they booked has been completed. It can be a win win situation for everyone involved’.

Mr. Didier Robert, President du Conseil Regional de La Reunion, Mr. Jean Max Rakotomamonjy, Madagascar Minister of Tourism, Mr. Alain St.Ange, Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture, Mr. Jean Sebastien Nicolas from the Parc National of Guadeloupe, Mrs. Caroline Batiza from the Parc Regional of Martinique and Mr. Glenn Phillips from the South African National Parks will all address the UNWTO sessions on the question of sustainable tourism development.

Airlines and a host of other tourism experts will also be addressing the conference on the question of long term economic development of tourism and how best to position transport as a means to develop tourism. The panel of speakers will be coming from as far away as Fiji, Thailand, Australia, Mayotte, Azores, Tanzania, Indonesia, Kenya, Greece, Mauritius, Mozambique and Sri Lanka among others. Minister Rolph Payet of the Seychelles will be delivering a special address to this conference on the subject of the Blue Economy. Watch this space for live updates from both meetings during next week as well as travel reports after exploring La Reunion’s tourism attractions.

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