I should add “for now” in the title. If I consider what the newspapers are reporting, the first 24/7 festival was not that much of a success. People who work at the Central Market were idling due to a lack of customers. The hawkers seem to be quite happy though. Shops were closed by 22h due to that same lack of buyers. The only place which was very active was the Caudan Waterfront.
So, what went wrong? Nothing as such. It was a perfectly engineered festival. They had planned a concert, had the shops of Port Louis participate in the event by remaining open, and even had a few hawkers and food sellers around to help. The only problem was the people who were supposed to be there. The expected crowd was absent, for some very simple reasons. Then, what are those reasons anyway?
Real night life does not exist in Mauritius. You might say that many folks go clubbing at night, but just this is not nightlife. In countries like Singapore, people tend to dine outside. Restaurants are open till very late in the night. After a good dinner, people will tend to wander around, and maybe do some shopping, which is a major “hobby” in Singapore. English folks will enjoy the traditional pubs or maybe a late night cinema session before going hope. Would anybody do this in Mauritius? I guess not, for food is expensive here. A typical dine-out would run around Rs. 500 per person. Many traditional families would prefer to dine at home, instead of out. After that, if we include maybe a movie, add Rs. 175 to this per person. It’s quite a hefty price to pay in those dire times of recession (or post-recession, for the optimists among you).
But money alone is not enough. Transportation is a problem too. From where I live, there were no buses going to Port Louis after the normal operation hours. Therefore, only the people with cars could go to Port Louis. Now, imagine that you have returned from work after a tiring day, and having endured the traffic jams of 16h, will you be ready to take the car again after hours? Uhh.. No thanks! People living outside Mauritius got underground trains, lightweight railway and a good bus service, none of which are available in Mauritius. You are forced to drive again, but by night this time. This in itself is quite dangerous at times. You just have to see accident figures to know.
Which leads me to the security aspect. Whatever the police force says, people are afraid of getting mugged in Mauritius. This alone would deter a lot of folks from venturing out at night. Now, going down and walking in the dark streets of Port Louis? Yea right!
But what is the root of the problem you say? It’s so obvious: there is nothing in Mauritius that you can’t do by day, and have to do at night. How many shows are there to visit or concerts or shows to attend? Not that many! So what do you do at night then? You would go shopping? This involves money too, and people might not be very ready to spend money nowadays, specially the traditional Mauritian dad! What would you buy after hours that you can’t buy during the day? Would you go to do your vegetables shopping at night? This explains why the market was a desert. What shopping would you do at night? Would you shop everyday? Assume you decide to shop at night one day, what do you do for the remaining 6 days? That is the root of the problem: a huge lack of activity by night.
If people don’t have things to do at night, there is no reason to have 24/7. You can’t just say “ok, we need 24/7 in Mauritius, let’s DO IT!”. It doesn’t work like that. You need a change in the habits of the people, and this is not something easy to achieve. You need to give them something that they will want to do. Oh, something funny before moving on: the event is called 24/7, but everything was silent by midnight! What about the midnight-to-6am time?
What do we do then? Here’s some ideas for starters:
– First, get the people there. We need better transport, late-night buses throughout the island. That is the bare minimum!
– Start slow! Why 24/7? For starters, do a special “Late night day” instead. Say, Wednesday would be special late-night in Mauritius. Shops would be open till late, etc. Let people get used to the concept first. I think the organizers rushed ahead regarding this.
– You should try to bring the people. Having people who have worked during the day come back to the city at night is not an easy feat.
– Bring the tourists in! Instead of the bland sea-sand-sun concept, give them sea-sand-sun-shopping-sightseeing by night!
– Encourage artists to perform live, even little-known artists. Provide cheap shows for people to attend, maybe cheap theater shows? Half-price cinema tickets for the 21h session? Find some place to do all these. Or maybe mini-concerts?
– Encourage art galleries and other expositions to open only at night.
– Discounts at restaurants for dinners? Special family-night-out packages? Because Mauritians think in terms of “family” first, so you need to cater for that segment of the market. The problem may be that there are not that many restaurants in Mauritius, or they may have provided shows for people who are dining there? “An artist-a-day” kind of concept? Why only restaurants anyway? We need those “French cafés” in Mauritius too. Maybe a Starbucks or two? We have McDo, KFC, why not Starbucks? (The coffee is what is motivating me to put this here :P)
– Provide a lot more security. Security cameras are not security: we need a visible police force.
– Night activities? Like some after-hours coaching for some sport? Or “learn to play an instrument” sessions provided in some schools for the general public?
– Build some kind of hawkers’ market that opens only by night? Maybe a flea market where you can do some cheap shopping. No one wants to spend money, so give them an alternative which is as enjoyable as shopping.
– Upgrade infrastructures! We need more lighting in places that people visit! You can’t expect an event to work without investing a cent in it!
The 24/7 is an interesting idea, but maybe rushed without considering all the aspects of it first. There was simply not enough things to do, therefore not enough motivation for people to attend the event. And why in the world would they do the first Festival 24/7 in this cold of winter! Should have waited for summer!