REUNION BRACES FOR CHINESE VISITOR BOOM AS VISA WAITING PERIOD CUT TO 48 HOURS
(Posted 22nd May 2014)
It is largely credited to the persistence of the President of the Region of Ile de la Reunion Didier Robert, who is presently also the President of the Indian Ocean Vanilla Island Organziation, who over the past years relentlessly pushed the tourism agenda in Paris and had last year already obtained concessions that South African citizens could visit Reunion on a Visa Waiver Programme, that the government in Paris has now consented to special procedures which will allow Chinese citizens to enter Reunion on a Tourist Visa with just 48 hours needed to process the same. A special ministerial decree in February last year opened the doors for South Africans to enter entirely Visa free which led to a significant rise in arrival numbers of over one third on a year on year comparison and vastly improved load factors on flights between Johannesburg and St. Denis’ Roland Garros International Airport on the island.
Reunion, as part of France, ordinarily requires a Schengen Visa validated to also grant entry into the island and this latest climb down by bureaucrats on the French mainland is a victory for Reunion’s ongoing efforts to widen their visitor base and tap in to one of the world’s fastest growing outbound markets.
At hand, when Didier Robert made the announcement, was Senator Jacqueline Farreyrol, herself a former President of Ile de la Reunion Tourisme, in short IRT, commonly referred to as the Reunion Tourism Board and an equally staunch supporter to make tourism the island’s number one economic activity by marketing Reunion in new and emerging markets to reduce the former total reliance on the French domestic market.
It was also learned that subsequent to these two administrative easements discussions are ongoing to widen the Visa Waiver programme for a select group of other nationalities too in order to further stimulate travel to Reunion.
It should be recalled that it was Didier Robert who immediately embraced the concept of the Vanilla Island cooperation and for partnering with the Seychelles in tourism cooperation and promotion and who stood up to the bean counting auditors in France who earlier this year had the audacity to question the island’s financial expenses towards tourism promotion and the Vanilla Islands partnership.
Reunion, a French region in the deep of the Indian Ocean with neighbours Madagascar and Mauritius, is over 2.500 square kilometres large and geographically diverse with in particular the rugged interior of overwhelming scenic beauty, as can be seen when taking a helicopter excursion and flying over the island or landing on the Piton de la Fournaisse and taking a hike towards the crater rim of an active volcano. The island’s tourism industry is today largely diversified from a mere beach holiday destination to an active adventure destination where white water rafting, deep sea fishing, swimming with dolphins and watching whales has added cross island hikes and paragliding to name just two of the popular pastimes on Reunion. For more information visit www.reunion.fr or download the award winning Reunion App to iPhone or Android smart phones.