Madagascar Larger Than Life, New Life for Madagascar's Tourist Industry?
Will new movie grow Madagascar's economy?
Tina Butler,
April 26, 2005

One of the most anticipated films of the spring is Dreamworks's Madagascar. Scheduled for release over the often profitable Memorial Day weekend (May 27), this new feature is generating lots of buzz for the studio as well as the actors voicing the animated creatures featured in the movie. Madagascar, the country, hopes the film will stimulate its tourist industry in a way similar to Kenya's after the 1985 film Out of Africa was released.

Sifaka lemur in Madagascar
Dreamworks has high hopes for this new computer-animated film, which tells a fish out of water story of four urbanite zoo-dwelling animals who escape from New York and experience major culture shock when they arrive in a vastly foreign and decidedly wild Madagascar. The movie features voice performances by Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Ben Stiller.

Studio heads predict Madagascar will make anywhere from 175 to 240 million dollars, providing high visibility to this remote island nation (Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said Madagascar test-screened better than the blockbuster Shrek). Beyond marketing the story of these characters, the unique natural environment and animals of Madagascar should have a significant opportunity to be exposed to a wide audience.

Out of Africa, a popular film starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, was filmed in Kenya and the country saw a massive increase in tourism in the five following years. Madagascar will only see a similar increase and subsequent economic benefit from the film if enough money is spent to properly market the country in travel agencies and brochures as the film is released next month.

Currently, information on travel to Madagascar is difficult to come by, especially in the United States. While the island attracted 230,000 tourists in 2004, up from 160,000 the previous year, nearly two thirds of those numbers come from France, Madagascar's former colonial ruler. The goal for the country's nation tourist office is an annual 20 percent increase in the number of tourist, with a target figure of 684,000 in 2010.

Much of the recent growth for the tourist industry can be accounted for by the burgeoning, but flourishing ecotourism sector, according to tour operators. But to increase appeal to the lucrative higher-end tourist market, more flight and better hotels need to available, along with more information about the country in general.

An animated film can only take the audience so far. Those representing Madagascar's most promising new industry need to capitalize on this most timely marketing opportunity. Hopefully enough capital will be allocated for Madagascar to have its own big moment. For those interested in more information before or after the film is released, provides a comprehensive overview of the country and its unique and beautiful wildlife. The film's website,, while fun and colorful, provides little pertinent information about Madagascar.

Tina Butler, (April 26, 2005).

Madagascar Larger Than Life, New Life for Madagascar's Tourist Industry?.