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The last issue of 1908 of the “Bulletin of the Société de Géographie Commercial de Paris” presents its subscribers with a document which very much resembles a prospectus, the first without any doubt.
European tourists to take a cruise in Madagascar from August to October 1909. The program, “very attractive”, is developed by a Lyon travel agency, the Republican Agency Lyon, supported by three Parisian houses charge of the fold With the assistance of the Messageries Maritimes and various colonial societies as well as the financial assistance of the administration of the Colony.
The Governor General of the time, Victor Augagneur, a native of Lyon, encouraged this initiative, which he considered profitable in Madagascar by making it known. That is why he gives without difficulty the support that is asked of him and which consists mainly in the free excursions inside the Great Island. Other facilities are granted by the Maritime Messageries, in particular very low tariffs in first and second classes. This allows the organizers of the first “study trip in Madagascar” to offer their potential clients cruising at a fixed price including all travel expenses, catering including gratuities, ground handling tours, etc. .
The tariffs proposed have tempted lovers of new horizons and worlds. According to the archivist-paleographer Jean Valette, the program, even if one keeps to its Malagasy part, is indeed well studied very well. “It can be said that today (after-Independence) many tourists who visit the Great Island do not see as many kilometers as they were expected in 1909.” it is not so quick overflights, but quiet and peaceful trips using all means of transport that is available at the time: coasters on Pangalana, railways, roads and trails. As another prospectus tells us, “small excursions will be made in filanjana, worn on the shoulders of four bourjans, the average rickshaws, the longest in cars. The descent of the Ikopa will be in gunboat, those who took part in the expedition of 1895 “.
The itinerary – the South being then of very difficult access – must lead the tourists in all the picturesque and interesting places of Madagascar. First by sea Mahajanga Toamasina, from 1 to 5 September, with a stopover in Nosy Be and Antsiranana, Toamasina and Mahajanga using all means of transport, from September 5 to October 2. This crossing of Madagascar from east to west is particularly studied since the group uses to win Antananarivo, the Pangalana and rail, “this tourist wonder which one never tires despite the length of the path.”
Seventeen days are reserved to visit the capital where horse races are planned in Mahamasina and a Venetian feast on Lake Anosy. The immediate surroundings of the city are not forgotten: tourist attractions of Mahazoarivo, Tsarasaotra, Ambohimanga and Ilafy, long excursions in Antsirabe and Betafo in Vakinankaratra, Miarinarivo and around Lake Itasy where a hunt is concocted by amateurs . The Antananarivo-Mahajanga route will take place on the road to Maevatanàna where the visit of a
Place is provided; And from there the descent of the Ikopa and Betsiboka valleys is programmed during which the hunters can practice on the crocodiles. Then it is Mahajanga and the visit of the surroundings. The “happy tourists” will find their liner there on October 2, to embark on Antsiranana. The ascent of the Amber Mountain is the last memory they will retain of the Malagasy land before their departure for Europe. There are scheduled stops in Port Said, Djibouti, Mombassa, Zanzibar, Moroni, Dzaoudzi, Mahe, Seychelles and Aden.
Active publicity is being given to colonial societies and the French press to invite their readers to spend several holidays in the Indian Ocean. But all the efforts made and the enticing conditions do not interest forty people, targeted staff. And on August 9, 1909, the governor-general received a laconic telegram:
“Abandoned Cruise”. Thus ends the first attempt to include Madagascar in the destinations of the great tourism.