Reunion Island Roadshow in India

A French experience in the Indian Ocean

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April 24, 2019

/ By / New Delhi



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Placing Reunion Island on a map might not be an easy task for an Indian tourist but more and more are getting familiar with this small island situated in the Indian Ocean, just a short hop away from Mauritius.

For an island that can barely pack four cities as large as Mumbai, the Reunion Island is a rich trove of all that a tourist can look forward to in a destination. An active volcano, mountains rising over 2,600 metres in altitude, a varied coastline of over 200 kilometres, activities on the land, up in the air and deep in the sea, a multicultural environment that is reflected in its people, cuisine and lifestyles- it offers all.

Having long been a destination mainly for tourists from mainland France as well as Europe and other parts of the world, the Reunion is now targeting India, banking on the large number of tourists who head to its neighbouring Mauritius, which is extremely well connected with the Reunion by air and by sea.

The Reunion Island Tourism Board (IRT) recently organised a three-city roadshow in India, targeting the main source markets for outbound tourism. The IRT led a delegation comprising hoteliers, airlines, DMCs as well as tour partners from the island.

‘‘The numbers have been in constant growth since we started developing the Indian Market. We are receiving a lot of interest for our beautiful island and all its aspects. Reunion Island is a perfect destination for the Indians willing to discover our natural wonders and adventures. We are grateful to have the trust and the help of the Indian professionals. Their motivation in promoting our island is the key to develop all the opportunities in India for our destination,” says Lydie Sangarin, market manager at IRT.

As Reunion Island is an overseas territory of France, the IRT collaborated with Atout France India to promote itself on the very competitive Indian market. A unique feature of this island is clearly its unique melting pot of cultures with a strong Indian influence.

“It’s an honour for us to have the opportunity to be here again in India with our local partners. It’s important for us to thank the Indian professionals who have developed our destination but also very important to meet new professionals,” adds Lydie.

The island selected key metro cities for its roadshow, including New Delhi and Chennai. Indeed, over a third of the 850,000 people in the Reunion are of Indian origin whose ancestors migrated nearly two centuries ago, mainly from Tamil Nadu.

In order to boost tourism as well as to bring their ancestral land closer for the Indian diaspora in the Reunion, Air Austral has launched direct flights to Chennai, offering a seamless connect for the Indian tourists. The Reunion is also easily accessible through Air Mauritius that has direct flights from Mumbai, Bengaluru, New Delhi, and Chennai to Maurutius and a connecting flight to the Reunion. In order to facilitate Indian tourists, the Reunion Island has started visa-free arrival for Indian tourists if they come through a registered agent of a DMC.

Atout France India’s director Sheetal Munshaw says she expects a big boost for tourism from India with this ease of visa, besides many other attractions for them in the Reunion. “We are very happy to showcase a French experience in the Indian Ocean, with a very strong connection with India through its diaspora,” she comments.

Moreover, to drive traffic from India, the island is focusing on adventure and nature as main attractions for tourists. Indeed, the island offers a number of sporting/sightseeing activities like trekking, paragliding, scuba diving as well a range of different natural sites, like the active volcano or the three Cirques shaped valley. “For a tourist, there are so many things to do in Reunion Island. We have the only active volcano in the region, we have a mountainous island and also have the sea around us so you can experience natural excursions as well plenty of sports and other activities,’’ says Stéphane Fouassin, president of the IRT, who led the delegation.

As with many other destinations, the Reunion Island tourism players have also begun adapting to the exacting expectations of the Indian traveller. Egged on by Atout France, they have begun introducing more vegetarian dishes on the menu as well as add to the service, which is the biggest demand of the Indian visitor anywhere in the world.

Looking at the promising potential that this market holds for the Reunion, some professionals have gone all are going all the way to ‘Indianise’ their offer.

“I believe it is important for Indian visitors to find an Indian touch wherever they travel. We are very sensitive towards this at Akoya and hence we are trying to bring that entire Indian experience at our hotel. For example, we have hired an Indian Chef and we have also added numerous Ayurvedic elements to our spa,’’ says Joel Narayanin, CEO of Akoya Resort & Spa, a luxury boutique hotel in the Reunion.

The roadshow seems to have met its initial objective of bringing the offer that the Reunion Island has for the Indian market. “The Indian tourism professionals that we have met on the roadshow have been very receptive to what the Reunion has to offer. Also, the travellers from here generally stay six nights, like to see the volcano and the lagoon. They also do many activities in the tropical forests and the mountains where they can enjoy themselves and appreciate the fresh air,” says Anne Laure Payet of a leading DMC in the Reunion.

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