Indian Ocean: developing tourism in the region thanks to the concept of the “Vanilla Islands”

2023-08-17 22:14:53

In the Indian Ocean, after a mixed decade, the “Vanilla Islands” project is once again attracting the interest of regional decision-makers. Originally, this initiative aimed to transform the islands of the Indian Ocean into a common tourist destination. The actors of the region, especially drawing lessons from the pandemic, wish to give new impetus to this project.

From our correspondent in Port-Louis,

The initiative of Vanilla Islands started in 2011, when Mauritian tourism was booming with 111 hotels in operation and nearly one million visitors. That year, a common adventure had begun in Asia, recalls Pascal Viroleau, director of the Vanilla Islands, whose headquarters are on Reunion Island: ” The first professional meeting took place in Shanghai. The opening of an Air Mauritius line in Shanghai was done hand in hand between Madagascar, Mauritius and Reunion. These three islands went together to the Chinese professionals. It is a historic example of cooperation. »

The project was named Vanilla Islandsin reference to an exotic spice common to all the islands of the region: Mauritius, Madagascar, The meeting, Seychelles, Comoros and Mayotte. This offer offered tourists the opportunity to discover at least two islands in the region during their stay. The project did not really take off.

Post-Covid circumstances and conflicts around the world now more than ever justify a concerted approach. Camille Vital, Madagascar’s ambassador to Mauritius and the Seychelles, sees a revival for Vanilla Islands : « When I see the number of tourists arriving in Mauritius since the reopening of the borders, the hotels that are full, we feel that this is a project that will be open to everyone. »

A concept to develop regional tourism

Mauritian tourism, leader in the region, is expected to welcome more than one million visitors again this year. From January to July, more than 700,000 tourists, mainly Europeans, visited the island. However, regional tourism remains limited, with only 90,000 visitors since January. For Donald Payen, president of the Mauritius Tourist Office, the time has come to develop a label ” indianoceanic » : « Everything that is regional is becoming fashionable again, we will favor short circuits, we will encourage exchanges between peoples. »

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To foster this momentum, the region is counting on a new model of luxury cruise tourism. Pascal Viroleau director of the Vanilla Islands: “ Today, we are trying to attract boats that are smaller, more environmentally friendly, with greater purchasing power. »

The main obstacles to the initiative Vanilla Islands are poor connectivity and high cost of tickets. The frequency of flights between Mauritius and the other islands ranges from five daily round trips with Reunion, to 3 weekly flights with Madagascar and the Seychelles and zero connection with the Comoros.

Read alsoMauritius: tourism revives after years of pandemic

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