Mauritius Carnival – Different Views and Different News

In what must have been a communication from a supporter of embattled MTPA chief Karl Mootoosamy an opinion was expressed to this correspondent, which shows the growing lager mentality of those close to Karl and his inner circle. A broadside of allegations was fired off against the Seychelles Minister for Tourism Alain St. Ange with expressions ranging from he is running circles around Mauritius over what business did he have to meet our media and turn them against us to he is using the Vanilla Island bla bla bla to form a coalition against Mauritius and challenge our leadership besides some other rather unprintable utterances. This outburst appears to have been inspired by Minister St. Anges recent presence as Guest of Honour at the Madagascar International Tourism Fair, where he called upon fellow Vanilla Islands to stand together and work together to promote travel into the entire region and seek ways and means to more effectively connect the islands by air, something the forthcoming Routes Africa Conference also intends to address. While in Madagascar Minister St. Ange also got support from other Vanilla Islands to hold a special meeting of this marketing cooperative in the Seychelles on July 11th, an idea promoted and supported by La Reunion, Mayotte and Madagascar. This meeting will take place alongside the RETOSA Board meeting, the ICTP Annual General Meeting and the Routes Africa Conference, from which Air Mauritius seems to be as conspicuously absent as was the MTPA from the Carnival International de Victoria back in March.
All this goes to show the increasing division and disagreements between sections of the Mauritius tourism industry, many of whom have expressed their concern over MTPA trying to engage in a Don Quichotte like fight with the Seychelles at huge cost to the Mauritius taxpayers without achieving any meaningful contribution to raising the islands international profile but rather sullying it by being accused of Copy and Paste practices, indicating a regime at the tourism promotion authority gone bankrupt of their own original ideas.
Wrote a regular source from Port Louis: They first copied the Creole Festival which was staged in Seychelles and that was by any measure a costly flop for us. I have followed your articles on Seychelles and how they turned tourism around since 2009 when St. Ange was brought on board to revive STB. Seychelles Tourism, at least according to you in past articles going back to 2010, suffered of a bureaucratic regime with no new ideas and St. Ange reformed all of that. Next I remember the old regime was pushed out and St. Ange made CEO when it became clear he had the Midas touch the way you put it once and inspired change. Now he is even the Minister for Tourism so he must have done his job very well at STB.
Since he came Seychelles has been in the media and you call it a juggernaut and it is true. He did what we should do in Mauritius and here I am saying copying this strategy would be good for us. Use Mauritius citizens abroad with links to the media and tourism to be our eyes and ears and mouthpieces on the ground. Use motivated and skilled Mauritius citizens to staff key tourist offices abroad and do the job like the Seychellois are doing. They do not use a very expensive agency to tell the public in the main producer markets what we should tell them, what we know best, which is how beautiful Mauritius is and why tourists should come here. We have to use the media more effectively and I think you are a good example of how your portrayal of Seychelles in eTurboNews and on your blog has helped to put Seychelles in the spotlight. And I also agree with some of your articles about Air Mauritius when you wrote that past cooperation in the region between all three major airlines could have saved them all. That is now way beyond us but at least we should seek a strategic partner for Air Mauritius and stop pretending we can rescue that airline on our own. Again, Air Seychelles was given marching orders by the government in Victoria and the results are beginning to show with a revival now that they have Etihad as partner.
We need fundamental change in our tourism promotion set up and the way we do things and not look for enemies where we should look for friends and allies
From a media release obtained it seems that Hills Balfour was tasked to promote the carnival festival, due to be held in a few weeks already with minimum time for preparation, but has enlarged the brief to include a week long shopping festival on Mauritius, a vain attempt to once again copy the hugely successful shopping extravaganzas for instance held annually in Dubai, where most important prices are vastly lower than on Mauritius and where in particular Emirates provides special fares at much more affordable rates for that purpose than what a ticket to Mauritius costs. Added the same source when specifically asked about this turn of events: We are not a shopping island but a fantastic beach destination. We cannot compete for consumer goods prices with Dubai for instance as you asked. Emirates gives a big extra baggage allowance for people coming to their annual Dubai shopping festival and there is no sign Air Mauritius has put out special fares just five weeks ahead of the event or is doubling the baggage allowance for visitors to carry their things home without paying the very high extra baggage cost. Has MTPA maybe finally figured out what a terrible mistake they have made and are now trying to sell the idea as a shopping carnival? Whichever way, it is bound to flop.
What is patently clear here is that there are serious divisions within Mauritius tourism and whether ethnicity does play the role it has been suggested to this correspondent it allegedly does is almost paling by the impact of fragmenting the industry into camps and thus preventing a united line, a united stand and a united concept to promote the island abroad. Watch this space as the clock ticks down now towards the June 28th to July 05th period during which the carnival was to be hosted and the shopping festival is now being pushed as a supplement if not substitute.

5 Responses

  1. Dr Mootoosamy’s response actually serves to support many of Wolfgang’s comments. No one – least of all Minister St Ange and the STB – is saying they WANT the festival to flop, although this is the implication of the sign-off ‘Sorry Seychelles!’.

    My own concern, as someone who (a) has great affection for both Mauritius and Seychelles and (b) practical knowledge of carnival organisation, is that Mauritius has left it far too late to organise and promote the shopping festival and carnival for it to be of much use in generating income for Mauritius this year. This is exactly what happened with the Battle of Grand Port Bicentenary celebrations two years ago – a great opportunity was wasted because there was inadequate publicity (even the Arts & Culture Ministry didn’t seem to know what was happening a matter of weeks before the main event), and MTPA failed to respond to media requests for information.

    Carnivals require considerable lead times to organise – in the UK (Notting Hill) and Trinidad, for example, the end of one year’s carnival marks the start of planning, designing, fund-raising etc for the next one. To announce a wholly new event of this kind only a month ahead is, I’m afraid, setting it up for failure. To fill the carnival website with placeholder text and, for a day or two, even the wrong date, is inexcusable.

    It would be a great pity if the ordinary participants – who I’m sure are working hard to put on a good show – are let down by inadequate organisation and promotion. There’s no shortage of artistic and talented people in Mauritius, but they need the right support from their tourist board, not petty infighting, points-scoring and petulance.

    And what is the point of the Vanilla Islands concept if not co-operation? That means Dr Mootoosamy working hand-in-hand with his colleagues in Seychelles and Madagascar and Reunion, not competing against them and trying to undermine them. It means each country adopting best practices from the others, discussing how to promote the region not just individual countries, putting together a regional events calendar (well in advance – the 2013 calendar should be launched, at the latest, by the WTM in November), engaging in joint marketing campaigns etc.

    Interestingly, the region’s ports understand this: Shekur Suntah at Mauritius Ports Authority, Lt Col Ciseau at Seychelles Ports Authority and Jean-Bernard Robert at CCIR in Reunion have all said the same thing to me in the past four or five years – yes, we are competitors, but we are also great collaborators. The ports understand that, individually, they are too small to attract the volumes of traffic they need, but working together, eg on attracting cruise calls, makes good sense for all of them. It is a lesson the apparently isolationist MTPA would do well to learn.

    Perhaps next year we will see a more considered and co-operative approach to event planning and promotion by MTPA and all the Indian Ocean tourist boards.

  2. I am a citizen of Mauritius, and have been working in the tourism industry of Seychelles since 2007, to be frank and honest, I am sorry to say that Mauritius is far behind Seychelles in tourism promotion. Instead of innovating, it seems that Mauritius is simply copying on Seychelles. I invite all Mauritians to have a look to Seychelles Tourism Board website, it’s really another world. We are really far from Seychelles. A small island with Professionals and true Leaders