The regional trade fair which is now earmarked as an annual Vanilla Islands event hosted by the sister island of Madagascar, is a showcase for the tourism attributes of all the six island member states. The colourful opening ceremony had several keynote speakers taking the podium to highlight the importance and raison d'être of the Vanilla Islands organisation.
Mr. Eric Koller the Chairman of the Madagascar Tourism Board welcomed the over 400 invited guests, calling on all actors of the country's tourism industry to rally behind the Vanilla Islands banner to further promote Madagascar and increase its visibility worldwide.
Mr. Didier Robert, the President of the Regional Council for Reunion Island then addressed the audience with a strong message of unity and the need for all member states to work together to further the aims of the organisation and to rally behind each member start to show solidarity and support. He proposed that the Vanilla Islands takes on the challenge of increasing visibility on key markets and adopt a charter to further the credentials of the islands' biodiversity and sustainable tourism practices.
The President of the Vanilla Islands, Seychelles Minister for Tourism & Culture Alain St.Ange took to the podium highlighting the organisation's progress during his first year's mandate. He also pointed out the challenges ahead namely better air access and the need for tenacity amongst its member states. He alluded that the tourism industry is a complex one and that the rewards of hard work and determination are reaped further down the line. He cited the example of Seychelles which is now benefiting from double digit growth in arrival numbers for 3 consecutive years whilst other member states were having difficulty to sustain growth. He went on to stress the importance of all the islands working together and supporting each other to further promote all events and activities of each member state. He thanked everyone present for showing solidarity with Madagascar and strengthening their support for the Vanilla Islands Organisation.
Malagasy Minister Jean-Max Rakotomamonjy then addressed the audience putting emphasis on the fact that the country needs to better understand the tourism industry. He stressed that government needs to provide the private sector with the right enabling environment to allow it to flourish and take its rightful place within the Madagascar economy.
These keynote speeches were delivered in the presence of Ministers, ambassadors, dignitaries, VIPs, tour operators, travel agents and an important contingent of audio, visual and written press.
The distinguished guests were then ushered to the hotel's mezzanine to assist the ribbon cutting ceremony which kicked off the official opening of the trade fair.