MOOTOOSAMY STABS REGIONAL COOPERATION IN THE BACK
(Posted 02nd February 2014)
Disconcerting news emerged earlier today from Mauritius that the divisive and abrasive Karl Mootoosamy, to the surprise of many still CEO of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, has laid into the concept of regional cooperation, in particular the Vanilla Island Organization, with an apparent vengeance still hard to fathom.
Long known as envious of the accomplishments of the Seychelles and in particular of Alain St. Ange, from the days when he was CEO of STB until now, in his full capacity of cabinet minister for tourism and culture, he repeatedly in past years spat venom at the Seychelles marketing juggernaut. Yet it was not beyond him and his bunch of merry men to try and repeatedly do a copy and paste job, once when trying to imitate the Seychelles carnival and then attempting to copy cat SUBIOS – the Seychelles Festival of the Sea. The attempted carnival in Mauritius in the end turned out to be a glorified shopping festival widely considered a costly flop, which in the eyes of many revealed the creative bankruptcy and how the once visionary marketing of Mauritius is now almost desperately clinging to straws after losing its award winning ways. Mauritius tourism which was indeed the number one force among the Indian Ocean islands has for several years now yielded the number one spot in arrivals to the Maldives with Sri Lanka now threatening to push Mauritius to third place.
When asked in person during a face to face meeting in September last year at MOCA in St. Denis / La Reunion on the sidelines of a UNWTO Conference on Sustainable Tourism in small island states, what he made of the just announced Vanilla Island Organization, Mootoosamy’s entire stature seemed to take the appearance of a snake ready to strike, before a dismissive hand gesture gave the unspoken answer.
Information received and confirmed by a source in Port Louis an hour ago speak of remarks by Mootoosamy which leave little to imagination that he, now risen to the level of selfstyled policy maker for the Mauritius government it almost seems, was vehemently opposed to Mauritius’ Minister for Foreign Affairs who stands up for regional cooperation and integration, not a concept MTPA appears to embrace any longer.
News coming out of Mauritius from the island’s tourism stakeholders suggests that the MTPA and their CEO presented a report highlighting that Mauritius has nothing to gain from the Vanilla Islands Organization and that gains for Mauritius would come from elsewhere and Mauritius should therefore remove itself from the regional tourism body that itself helped create with the region. It was only in September last year that the 7 tourism ministers were present in Reunion, alongside UNWTO Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai, when the announcement of the launch of the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands Organization was made and the full launch then, again in the presence of all 7 members, took place in November last year at WTM in London.
A growing section of the Mauritius tourism private sector, long disenchanted with the direction of MTPA, has now apparently made a first move to take matters into their own hand when it comes to promoting their own attractions, and the mood was combative according to mailed information which reads as follows: ‘We will be the dynamic tourism body promoting our island with our regional partners, and we can leave the MTPA to sit and do what they do best the waltz of hesitation putting one step forward and two steps back as the tourism industry suffers. As much as Mauritius is part of the regional tourism body of the Vanilla Islands, they do not know at this late stage if they will be participating in the coming Carnival of Victoria in Seychelles. The decision of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority and of Karl Mootoosamy, their CEO is to happily state his disgust for neighbouring islands as his regional tourism policy’.
It is understood that members of the Vanilla Island Organization are now trying to get clarification through diplomatic channels if the official position of Mauritius vis a vis regional cooperation and specifically the tourism cooperation under the Vanilla Island Organization has fundamentally changed, and if so, what the future of cooperation under the Indian Ocean Commission and other bodies will be like considering the outburst of the MTPA chief.
Watch this space to see where this latest spat is going and what, if any, consequences will arise for MTPA and its chief Karl Mootoosamy.