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President of La Reunion Regional Council takes French Auditors to task for simply not understanding tourism

February 21, 2014 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

Seychelles-TravelLa Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean has for years been stuck with mainland France as its tourism industry’s main source market.

When the economic meltdown of the French economy arrived the economy of La Reunion suffered accordingly and its tourism industry could not play any part to assist the island’s economy keep its head above the water.

ImperialYet La Reunion Island is a spectacular tropical with an active volcano, spectacular mountains described often as the Swiss Mountains of the Indian Ocean and the warmth of the islanders and a great marine life. La Reunion had all the unique selling points to position them in the same league as Mauritius, Seychelles, Maldives and others, but the French Administration continued to strangle the island’s tourism industry through mainland France rules and regulations.

The “Cour des Comptes” questions the tax exemption overseas through the annual public report for 2014 that has been published on Tuesday, February 11th.

In its part dedicated to the Tourism overseas, the high brains regarding the Tourism delivered the good points and the punishments

Even though tourism is seen by all through locally in La Reunion through the National conference of the Tourism, and even though Tourism is declared a national cause by the President of the Republic of France, this report comes to compromise the efforts which the elected representatives of the island leads on the ground as closely as possible to the populations to mobilize, and to federate around a project shared by the development of the Tourism.

The “Cour des Comptes” turned in a report literally against the action of the overseas regions of France, which it considers no more and no less, as ineffective.

The deathblow is given by the last line of the document where the High Authority “suggests” to the State to eliminate the tax exemption in favour of the productive investments.

I I/The action of the La Reunion regional council since 2010 is determining for the tourism.

Identified as exceptional lever of growth by the mandate, the tourism is identified as priority sector from 2010 by the La Reunion regional council.

The regional budget dedicated to the tourism grew from 17,9 M€ in 2010 to 23,4 M€ in 2013.

This effort bears fruits on the improvement of the offer and on the tourists arrivals:

After a record of arrivals in 2011 (471 268 tourists), the figure was established at 446 500 tourists in 2012, more than the 2010 ones.

The island knew an increase of the tourists from the Indian Ocean zone (+ 8,5 %) whereas the friends and relatives tourism remained at the same level (210 000 tourists in 2012 vs 211 000 in 2011).

The combined funding from the European Union, the regional council and the tax exemption of the LODEOM will allow to create 548 rooms and to renovate 285.

These very encouraging results in a context of crisis convince us to pursue the efforts undertaken according to 3 strategic axes:

The partnership between the public and private sectors in a spirit of shared tourism;

The mobilization in favour of the quantitative and qualitative improvement of the offer;

The cooperation with the nearby Islands.

II / The State leads a systematic policy of obstacle against the ultra-marine tourist development

The report of The “Cour des Comptes” omits to indicate the brakes directly activated by the State which put in danger the efforts of the public and private operators.

A blocking policy of visas

The formalities bound to the obtaining of visas to stay on the island constitute a real brake upon the arrival of foreign visitors.

In spite of the persistent requests and indefatigably repeated by the local elected representatives, the Government persists in not opening the borders to our most promising markets: India, China, etc.

21 years were necessary so that the South African tourists are exempted from visas for the short stays in La Reunion.

The migratory risk put forward by the authorities is widely overestimated on an island from which the ocean and the estrangement of territories at risk naturally protect the borders.

This policy of visas goes against the necessity of diversification of the tourist clienteles nevertheless advanced in the report and even when the experiment led with South Africa demonstrated the immediate effect of the visas liberalization (+33 % of sale on the South Africa / La Reunion route).

We could continue this inventory by evoking the disastrous management of the crisis of the Chikungunya and the shark risk, the slowness of Berçy in the processing of the tax exemption, the frost of a strategic land in seaside zone but it would be too long to extend over the negligence of the State.

La Reunion Island is now saying that they cannot agree to let them be dictated by actions of Parisian thinkers as they are totally disconnected from the realities of our French territories.

Based on the island’s balance sheet regarding tourism, La Reunion will persist in their efforts to offer La Reunion a real chance of development:

When the holy alliance is more than obligatorily in a context of crisis, Paris operates a real policy of breakage of overseas territories and dares to settle in arbitrary comments towards the local politics. All Paris has said is aimed at giving a justification to the government to question again the principle of the tax exemption.

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