I’m going to hazard a guess that most readers will not know where the Vanilla Islands are or what they are. At least not under that name.
The “Vanilla Islands” is actually a brand name used for marketing tourism to the seven Indian Ocean island countries of the Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Maldives, Mayotte, Reunion, and the Comoros. Most baby boomers will certainly be familiar with the Seychelles, Madagascar, Maldives, and Mauritius, though they may know less about Mayotte, Reunion and the Comoros.
I think it’s a wonderful idea for island countries spread widely across the Indian Ocean to join together for marketing purposes. (The brand name was established in 2010 and the grouping has since grown from four to seven.)
One of their goals is to reduce paperwork and join together in other ways to make it easier to visit all or some of the islands on one trip. While you may not want to fly halfway around the world just to visit Madagascar, say, you might consider it if you could also spend some time enjoying the beaches of the Seychelles or the Maldives.
And if Mayotte, Reunion and the Comoros can hitch a ride on the reputations of their better known sister isles, so much the better.
So, so far so good.
But what about that name — Vanilla Islands?
The “Vanilla” name was chosen, we are told, because four of the island countries grow vanilla.
Wow — that really makes me want to go there.
I realize that the “Spice Islands” is already taken, but couldn’t the tourism officials on those Indian Ocean isles come up with something better than “Vanilla Islands?”
Sure, vanilla is the most popular kind of ice cream, at least in the U.S., but for many of us, it needs a little help — say, toppings of fruit or hot fudge, or a big slice of warm apple pie cuddled next to it.
“Vanilla” says “bland” — kind of like “white bread.” There’s nothing colorful about “vanilla.”
Madagascar, the Seychelles, Mauritius and the rest are exotic destinations. Just the name “Indian Ocean” is exotic to folks from Europe and North America.
So why not choose something exotic? Maybe even the “Exotic Isles?”
Admittedly, when translated into French for use on Reunion, for instance, the brand sounds a bit more exotic: “Les Iles Vanille.”
But if the English version — “Vanilla Islands” — makes anyone want to fly off to the Indian Ocean, I’d like to hear about it.
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