Is self isolation the answer to revive Mauritius tourism?


(Posted 04th February 2014)

The present tourism leadership at MTPA will leave Mauritius tourism as dead as a Dodo’ concluded one regular source from Port Louis, drawing the parallel to the long extinct bird Mauritius was once home to before it vanished from the face of the earth, leaving but a myth behind as well as the byword ‘Dead as a Dodo’.

Karl Mootoosamy, still CEO of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority – some hope for not much longer – stuck his nose into a hornets’ nest when a few days ago suggesting that Mauritius should go it alone and pull away from the hitherto all inclusive cooperation with neighbouring Indian Ocean islands, which came together under the brand name of ‘The Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands’.

More feedback from incensed tourism stakeholders, several of them now ready to go public under their own name and organization, has allowed to follow up yet more on this unsavoury story, which appears to drag Mauritius into isolation from her neighbours all of whom full heartedly stand behind the Vanilla Island concept and have embraced it to promote their own keynote events across the year.

One of Mauritius most read newspapers started the week with a article on tourism entitled ‘Tourism: Mauritius is overtaken by the region’. Karen Walter of the newspaper presented for all to see the state of affairs of the Mauritian Tourism Industry. This article comes as the Ministry of Tourism is getting ready, we are told from the Mauritius Hotel and Tourism enterprises, to seek the Government’s approval to move the island out of the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands. ‘Will that also mean that the Indian Ocean Commission (COI) and the Indian Ocean Rim (IOR) will be asked to move their Headquarters out of Mauritius’ a resort General Manager asked in his reaction: ‘We have lost it completely. We built an airport to become the hub of the Indian Ocean, then we do not want to work with the Indian Ocean’ another Mauritian owner of a small hotel was quoted to have said. Both the COI and IOR are regional organisations where the island’s Anil Gayan, their Minister for Foreign Affairs speaks with a loud voice. Another tourism industry professional of Mauritius asked what Regional Cooperation can Mauritius speak about when Mootoosamy of the MTPA is pushing for isolation.

The L’Express Newspaper stated that now the Russian Media are set for the first time to cover the Carnival International de Victoria that will be taking place in Seychelles this coming April. This, as Mauritius still cannot decide if it is to be present at this regional event with all the other islands of the region or not. But it was Mauritius that was in the leadership under a former Minister of Tourism to form the Vanilla Islands to reposition the Indian Ocean as a tourism destination. L’Express Newspaper of Mauritius says that this was the aim of the Vanilla Islands and today countries such as Madagascar, South Africa and Sri Lanka amongst others are looking at benefiting from the spirit of togetherness of the region, Mauritius is playing the lone ranger if not envious spoiler all alone, and their participation at the Carnaval International de Victoria in the Seychelles this year still remains undecided, largely attributed to Mootoosamy’s personal vendetta against all things Seychelles and in particular their tourism and culture Minister Alain St. Ange. Here a source, wishing to remain unnamed, but close to MTPA, confirmed that ‘Mr. Karl hates St. Ange’s guts and is green with envy over his success, the success of the Seychelles islands as a destination and his personal success, rising to a ministerial post’.

La Reunion, Mayotte, Madagascar are all Vanilla Island members are joining as co-hosts of the carnival festival with the Seychelles and South Africa to organise the 04th Carnaval International de Victoria that is set for the month of April. Even Sri Lanka is showing interest to be associated with this new drive in the Indian Ocean according to Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture.

But an unanswered question remains, Mauritius that has been noticeably absent from past events of the Vanilla Islands, will they yet again be marked as absent at this coming event in Seychelles. L’Express Newspaper of Mauritius says that it is exactly this deliberate absence by Mauritius at events aimed at consolidation regional tourism that is so much regretted by Alain St.Ange, who is also the President of the Vanilla Islands. Karen Walter of the L’Express Newspaper confirms that she interviewed Minister St.Ange of the Seychelles by telephone on Wednesday 29th of January where he said that the Vanilla Islands Organisation aims to reposition the Indian Ocean Region as a key tourism destination. The Seychelles Minister also said that this cannot be achieved without unity and that Mauritius needed to be more involved in regional events. ‘If we are not working together as a united group our region will not be what it could succeed to be and it is our people from our respective islands who suffer as a result. Mauritius tourism must decide what it wants for itself and for the people of Mauritius’ the Minister is quoted as having said.

Nando Bodha, the former Minister responsible for Tourism of Mauritius agrees with the Seychelles Minister. Former Minister Bodha was one of those who launched the Vanilla Islands concept in 2010. ‘Mauritius is missing out on a rare opportunity’ former Minister Bodha of Mauritius said. It is reported in the L’Express Newspaper that the former minister went on to say that Mauritius as a country had lost ‘the leadership and the motivation it used to enjoy to make the Indian Ocean the centre for tourism’, a damning indictment for the present tourism leadership at MTPA and at the Ministry of Tourism.

Karl Braunecker, the Managing Director of Connections, a Destination Management Company in Mauritius takes, according to L’Express Newspaper a different twist to the Mauritius regional saga. Even though he says that he remains convinced that Mauritius must be present at the carnival in Seychelles as this would bring benefits for Mauritius. Mr Braunecker said that it was not a world event that will make the major difference in the island’s records ‘I am supporting a Vanilla Islands Carnival on a regional basis that is held each year in a different islands’ he said. ‘Mauritius is well positioned to become the aviation hub of the region. But we need to double our efforts in the promotion of twin destinations (Africa-Mauritius) on the Asia and Australia markets‘ Mr. Braunecker further said. This approach is supported by Alain St.Ange ‘Twin centre destinations remains a formula that works and attracts the Japanese, Chinese and South Americans. But for now the Seychelles strategy is to work to remain visible. This is the reason why the Seychellois hoteliers recorded a bumper year in 2013 with 230.272 arrivals and USD 343.3 million US Dollars in revenues. This is an increase of 11% over 2012’ Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister said.

Karen Walter of the l’Express Newspaper reported that they had tried in vain to get a reaction from Minister Michael Sik Yuen, the Minister of Tourism of Mauritius but calls were not returned nor were other efforts responded to.

Watch this space as this saga is sure to get uglier as time goes on while isolationists and a few individuals driven by greed and envy still stand at the helm of Mauritius’ tourism bodies, ready to self-destruct if thing do not go their way.

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