By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
Humility is one of our commonly shared values which is, alas, sometimes cast aside by high-ranking officials and pen pushers or scribblers of all hues. The Minister of Culture apologized very humbly to an artist for the unfortunate handling of his play-project he had planned to perform in the US, a case of simplicity and humility which one can rarely come across in western societies where inflated egos, especially male ones, stink in every sphere of life.
Similarly, the Minister of Tourism deserves to be congratulated for humbly acknowledging that the success of the tourism campaign in France bears the imprint of the efforts made by his predecessors though evidently, he has been handling his ministry with a lot of energy during the past few months since he has been there. By the way, it was very wise of him not to attend the mass held for tourism. The press should inform the public if masses are held for the fishing industry, the IT sector, the sugar industry, the booming real property sector such as the IRS and such likes. Though basically there is nothing wrong about ministers attending ceremonies held by clerics of all faiths, too much adrenalin shoots up every time politicians show up at such events because of the perverse effects. Better keep away.
Off the beaten track
Given the harsh international economic situation, it is quite encouraging to observe the dynamism displayed by the authorities in boosting up the tourist industry. New lines will be opened with Shangai and Moscow. At least, in the tourism sector, once a line of development is agreed upon, the authorities do not waste time holding talks around rectangular and round tables, unlike what happens in the sister island next-door where probably people are not business-minded enough. Mauritians set themselves to the task of materializing the project as fast as possible.
Now, tourism is not only about filling the coffers of the national airline and fattening big companies. The development of tourism also rests upon the contact and interaction between people and the foreign visitors. It is probably high time to look beyond the nationalities that have become regular customers, some of them gradually end up behaving as if they owned the island! Granted that Mauritius already enjoys healthy commercial ties with France, will it not be wise to explore other directions in western Europe? Renewal in whatever activity is always stimulating. The ultimate aim of the industry is that it should be profitable, so why not make it also interesting and pleasant for those Mauritians who deal with tourists on a daily basis. Notwithstanding the fact that one should not generalize, there is something called national character though.
Belgium is one such country; tourism from Belgium should be promoted because the Belgians are one of the nicest people in Europe, and they would suit Mauritians fine. Another suitable country for sourcing tourists is Denmark. First, it is one of the most egalitarian societies in the world, not only at the level of social justice but also between men and women. Second, the Danes have a deep sense of righteousness in their dealings with others, and the austere look that characterizes them shows in consumer spending. A lot of restraint probably due to Protestant ethics. Thirdly, they are nature-lovers just like the Finns. Both Dennmark and Finland highly protect the natural blessings they are endowed with. True luxury for them is their quiet vast green forests where they retire during the week-ends.
For a change, get these people to visit Mauritius.
The cultural aspect
Not the least important, is the cultural aspect. Why is Bali so popular? It has kept a lot of its cultural authenticity in its language, customs, dresses, architecture and religious practices. Mauritius has the blessing of a myriad of languages but most unfortunately it mainly speaks just one of them. Billboards along the roads carry slogans mostly in French and English. The Chinese expect foreigners to learn their language or to try to understand it. Mauritius believes that it should speak to foreigners in their own language. You can’t expect to load Mauritians with all the European languages. Foreigners also appreciate authenticity. The Devanagari, the language of the gods, should be present in every nook and cranny of the island because it is the language of a big chunk of Mauritians. Not only should it be written on billboards and buildings, it should also be widely spoken. It is up to cultural associations to promote the use of Oriental languages among the people. Regular visitors have had enough of the concrete jungle in Grand Bay and the shopping spree there. Carrefour, Super U or Halles are not what foreigners come here for. They tend more and more to look for the villages, and what is lacking in most of them is a variety of cultural activities.
May we suggest that the Ministry of Culture encourage art, music and drama for the benefit of both Mauritians and tourists in the villages.
* Published in print edition on 1 October 2010