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Island hopping packages: the Vanilla Islands, a commercial "gateway" for Tour Operators

Interview with Pascal Viroleau, CEO of the Vanilla Islands

Now grouped together, the 7 Vanilla Islands continue their cooperative efforts. The goal: to attract customers from BRIC countries, highlighting the packaged offers of tour operators. Also underway is the website launch, institutional brochures and the promotional development on social networks. Pascal Viroleau, CEO of the Association of the Vanilla Islands, gives us an inside look.

Rédigé par Anaïs BORIOS translated by Joséphine Foucher le Vendredi 25 Avril 2014

Island hopping packages: the Vanilla Islands, a commercial "gateway" for Tour Operators - How did the concept of the Vanilla Islands grow since its launch in September 2011?

Pascal Viroleau: "Starting from bilateral actions implemented in a "sporadic" manner between the different islands, our actions are concretizing today.

About six months ago, the Vanilla Islands Association was established, with a dedicated team and the first budgets obtained in late 2013.

For now, there are two of us, with the marketing manager, but a third person should join us in the coming weeks.

This person will manage the administrative part, purchases, etc.”

Pascal Viroleau, CEO of the Vanilla Islands - DR
Pascal Viroleau, CEO of the Vanilla Islands - DR – There are seven islands in the association. What is your plan of action?

Pascal Viroleau: "We want to stabilize our efforts with the seven islands. This is a three-step process.

The first short-term step focuses on marketing activities and communication, with the focus on providing a general image of the islands.

It will be enhanced by putting forth the products of our tour operators, namely bilateral and multilateral combos. We want to boost the promotion of these products via Internet and social networks.

We are also working in hosting educational tour, press trips, and roadshows.

The second step, more long-term, concerns market research, made possible thanks to our partners turning their results public.

But also the establishment of market studies, like the one we are putting together with the World Tourism Organization on the development of tourism in 2020 and 2030. Its results will enable us to help tourism operators prepare for changes.

The third and last step deals with personnel training and helping in product creation. For example, we are organizing a future workshop on new technologies and social networks dedicated to the community managers of tourism offices of the islands." - Your Facebook page has over 5,600 fans. Will the website soon see the light of day?

Pascal Viroleau: "It should be launched in the coming weeks. The graphic part is over, we’re now writing its content.

Right at its launch, the site will highlight the agenda of all the Vanilla Islands along with the tour operators’ packaged offers." – Is a brochure also being prepared?

Pascal Viroleau: "An institutional document will soon be released, with basic information on each island (population, climate, air traffic, etc.)

An image brochure to be distributed in fairs and perhaps aboard some airlines is also in preparation.

Everything else, including our product offers will remain only online, to facilitate frequent updating, but also because our development strategy wants to maximize digital presence.” - Alongside the work on packaged offers with TO, will other actions be implemented such as the Vanilla Islands Pass from Air Austral for example?

Pascal Viroleau: "We are also working with Air Seychelles and Air Mauritius to establish special prices for tourists in order to develop our packaged offers.

According to our calculations, nearly 50,000 passengers went to the Indian Ocean through these packaged offers in 2013. This is an interesting figure that is to our advantage." – Is the French market receptive to these kinds of offers?

Pascal Viroleau: "The product is working, even if the market is suffering. However, it is greatly increasing in the BRICs markets.

These are our priority markets: South Africa, India, China. By "priority", I mean that we commit more resources to those markets, in terms of hosting, our guides’ language learning etc.

The Maldives have long been aiming at the BRICs, Mauritius is also very dynamic and the Seychelles are not far behind." – By becoming the Vanilla Islands, won’t these islands risk losing some of their own identity?

Pascal Viroleau: "If we draw a parallel with the Caribbean, each island has retained its identity and they are all doing fine.."

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