Mauritius has held out an olive branch to its Indian Ocean neighbours in response to the row that erupted when it announced its “rival” carnival to the successful event in Seychelles.
Robert Desvaux, chairman of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA), held a press conference on 11 June with Pascal Viroleau of Île de la Réunion Tourisme (IRT) and Seychelles tourism minister Alain St Ange to explain that the Mauritian event at Flic en Flac “is not competing with the Carnaval International de Victoria”.
Desvaux admitted that Mauritian absence from the last two Seychelles carnivals could have led to a “misunderstanding” about MTPA’s intentions in organising its own carnival and ‘Shopping Fiesta’. The Seychelles Nation newspaper reported him as saying: “At the time, we did not consider it a priority to attend, but we probably shall do so next year,” he said. In early April, Mookhesswur Choonee, the Mauritian minister of arts and culture, had assured St Ange he would see how Mauritius could participate in the 2013 Carnaval International de Victoria and according to some press reports had “committed” to be a co-organiser of the event.
The carnival controversy, reflected in international media criticism of its actions, seems to have jolted the MTPA into a belated recognition that co-operation with its neighbours is a better strategy. Desvaux reportedly agreed to harmonised marketing for the region, which should be projected as a destination in its own right in a similar way to the Caribbean. An ‘Iles Vanilles’ tourism marketing organisation would be set up under the Indian Ocean Commission, with EU funding, its own secretary-general and a rotating presidency.
The turnaround puts further pressure on the embattled director of the MTPA, Dr Karl Mootoosamy, who has been credited with the ‘go-it-alone’ strategy. In Mauritius calls have been growing for the organisation he heads to be privatised.