Madagascar Larger Than Life, New Life for Madagascar’s Tourist Industry?
Will new movie grow Madagascar’s economy?
Tina Butler, mongabay.com
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
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, www.wildmadagascar.org
provides a comprehensive overview of the country and its unique and
beautiful wildlife. The film’s website,
www.madagascar-themovie.com/main.php, while fun and colorful, provides
little pertinent information about Madagascar.