Read us | Listen to us | Watch us | Join Live Events | Turn Off Ads | Live |

Click on your language to translate this article:

Afrikaans Afrikaans Albanian Albanian Amharic Amharic Arabic Arabic Armenian Armenian Azerbaijani Azerbaijani Basque Basque Belarusian Belarusian Bengali Bengali Bosnian Bosnian Bulgarian Bulgarian Catalan Catalan Cebuano Cebuano Chichewa Chichewa Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Traditional) Chinese (Traditional) Corsican Corsican Croatian Croatian Czech Czech Danish Danish Dutch Dutch English English Esperanto Esperanto Estonian Estonian Filipino Filipino Finnish Finnish French French Frisian Frisian Galician Galician Georgian Georgian German German Greek Greek Gujarati Gujarati Haitian Creole Haitian Creole Hausa Hausa Hawaiian Hawaiian Hebrew Hebrew Hindi Hindi Hmong Hmong Hungarian Hungarian Icelandic Icelandic Igbo Igbo Indonesian Indonesian Irish Irish Italian Italian Japanese Japanese Javanese Javanese Kannada Kannada Kazakh Kazakh Khmer Khmer Korean Korean Kurdish (Kurmanji) Kurdish (Kurmanji) Kyrgyz Kyrgyz Lao Lao Latin Latin Latvian Latvian Lithuanian Lithuanian Luxembourgish Luxembourgish Macedonian Macedonian Malagasy Malagasy Malay Malay Malayalam Malayalam Maltese Maltese Maori Maori Marathi Marathi Mongolian Mongolian Myanmar (Burmese) Myanmar (Burmese) Nepali Nepali Norwegian Norwegian Pashto Pashto Persian Persian Polish Polish Portuguese Portuguese Punjabi Punjabi Romanian Romanian Russian Russian Samoan Samoan Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic Serbian Serbian Sesotho Sesotho Shona Shona Sindhi Sindhi Sinhala Sinhala Slovak Slovak Slovenian Slovenian Somali Somali Spanish Spanish Sudanese Sudanese Swahili Swahili Swedish Swedish Tajik Tajik Tamil Tamil Telugu Telugu Thai Thai Turkish Turkish Ukrainian Ukrainian Urdu Urdu Uzbek Uzbek Vietnamese Vietnamese Welsh Welsh Xhosa Xhosa Yiddish Yiddish Yoruba Yoruba Zulu Zulu

Turbulent Madagascar scares off tourists

Written by editor

Hollywood became an unlikely champion of tourism in Madagascar when an animated film took the country’s name as its title and deposited a group of animals from a zoo in New York on the shores of the ‘

Hollywood became an unlikely champion of tourism in Madagascar when an animated film took the country’s name as its title and deposited a group of animals from a zoo in New York on the shores of the ‘Red Island’.

But when political violence broke out in Madagascar’s capital of Antananarivo in late January, in which more than 100 people died, the image of exotic adventure portrayed in the film was largely forgotten.

As the international condemnation of Andry Rajoelina’s military-backed rise to power grows, tour operators in Madagascar are increasingly fearful for the country’s reputation as a safe holiday destination.

In tatters

Political turmoil threatens to leave the tourism industry, one of the country’s biggest foreign currency earners, in tatters.

Hotel occupancy in the capital stands at less then 10% and in the provinces many hotels have been forced to close, laying off staff without pay.

“The impact of the crisis has been immediate,” Vola Raveloson, director of Madagascar’s National Tourism Office (ONTM), told the BBC.

“As soon as international tour operators saw the images of the violence they cancelled all trips to Madagascar.”

Tucked away down one of Antananarivo’s narrow cobbled streets, the ONTM is easy to miss.

Cars rattle down the street outside, shaking the windows of the cramped offices.

At first glance the exotic scenery and outlandish wildlife splashed across bright advertising posters seem as fictitious as the animated characters in Madagascar the movie.


But recent years have seen tourism in Madagascar flourish.

In 2008, the industry brought in nearly $400m (£275m), directly employing 25,000 people, and indirectly employing as many as 100,000, according to the ONTM.

Last year 378,000 foreign visitors arrived, an increase of 25,000 on 2007.

The world’s fourth largest island and one of only four global biodiversity hotspots, Madagascar is home to animals as bizarre as the hog-nosed snake and hairy-eared dwarf lemur.

Most of what the Indian Ocean island has to offer visitors exists nowhere else in the world.

At the moment though, this means little to Madagascar’s hotel owners, who have been particularly hard hit by the political crisis.

“This is a catastrophe for hoteliers,” said Eric Koller, head of Madagascar’s hotel and restaurant federation.

“Eighty per cent of hotels are closing and the provinces have been especially hard hit.

“Most hotels have reduced staff by 50%, and some have laid off all staff without pay.”

But it is not just hotels and restaurants that are being affected.

“The tourism industry train is enormous,” said Mr Koller. “It includes artisans who sell souvenirs to tourists, car hire companies, and even farmers and fishermen who sell food to the hotels.”

Even conservation projects in the country are under threat. Volunteers from abroad form the backbone of many environmental projects in the country, but some countries are now advising travellers to avoid Madagascar.

“Travel advice recommending against travel to Madagascar is having a profound impact,” said Edward Tucker-Brown, manager of a luxury camping company.

“Salaries are falling, unemployment is rising and environmental monitoring and protection are being severely hampered.”

In rural areas, where some communities rely on money from tourism to supplement falling incomes from vanilla farming, many will be hit hard by falling visitor numbers.

A major problem would be any decision by foreign travel agencies not to include Madagascar as a destination in travel brochures for 2010.

“My company is struggling to survive as a result of the crisis,” said one operator. “And it will take more than a film to help us.”