As I mentioned yesterday I am here in Mauritius for the Advances in Hospitality and Tourism Marketing and Management Conference. The fun thing about going to conferences in Africa is that the organizers take them very seriously, so they often bring high ranking public officials to be keynote speakers or guests of honor in order to show attendees how much the country values the topic of the event. For instance, at the opening session of the conference today the President of Mauritius was the keynote speaker. In the past year I have seen President Khama of Botswana, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, President Sata of Zambia and now President Purryag of Mauritius at conferences. In the last 35 years I have NOT seen Presidents Carter, Reagan, Clinton or Obama. I did have breakfast with former President Bush Sr. when he was a speaker at an event I did in Vegas and while I didn’t meet W. (George W. Bush) I did ride in his limo when he did an event of mine while I was working at Disney- though that was before he became prez. To put this in perspective, I have a 100% presidential citing average at conferences in Africa. Considering the fact I have probably organized at least 500 events over the years that means I have seen presidents at 0.004% of my events in the U.S.
Of course, having a president, or any well-known public servant attend an event here calls for protocol. First there is a red carpet. I didn’t take a picture of today’s red carpet because it wasn’t one of the nicer red carpets I’ve seen in the last 12 months. But, you can see Mugabe’s red carpet here if you like. Of course, before the official of note shows up there is the corralling of all the staff at the hotel, as well as the entourage. Mugabe travels with a presidential escort of 60 vehicles and hundreds of personal guards and staff. I didn’t witness the line of all the hotel employees standing outside the hotel for inspection upon arrival by President Purryag today, but I know it happened based on reports by other conference attendees.
Once the official arrives there is the playing of the national anthem, then the seating ceremony. Now, up until this point I follow along like a well behaved guest. I only reveal my true colors once the speeches begin. And today was no exception to the rule. Each time someone spent five minutes saying hello to all the honored delegates and then stated, “Protocol observed” it was all I could do not to burst into laughter. Again, if you don’t know what I’m talking about with the “protocol observed” you REALLY need to read this blog post.
All in all the visit from President Purryag was positive. He had a lot of good comments regarding tourism in Mauritius and Africa as a whole. Plus, it was fun to have one final reminder about protocol and speeches before I head home. Thanks for the memory President Purryag!