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Saint Ange Tourism Report 27th August 2017

August 29, 2017 Destination Seychelles No Comments Email Email

Welcome to Edition #12 of 2017.

Our famous quote for today is one by Martin Luther King (Jr.) –

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. 
  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Hate has no home in the lives of those who value inclusion, tolerance and random acts of kindness.  Many may be familiar with the song lyrics, “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” Many of you share this sentiment. Hate disrupts lives and in turn hurts businesses.

In Seychelles, we know that the economy is facing real challenges which will impact on the lives of the average citizen. As an island Nation, we remain dependent on tourism. A recent survey in Australia recently concluded that Travel Agents remain more relevant than ever for tourism. Travel Agents use Tour Operators’ published programs and their tourists are generally met and handled by a Destination Management Company (DMC).

Extracts from the edited notes by Peter Needham on the recent survey reveals:- Three quarters of Australian travelers view travel agents as a “trusted source of travel and safety advice” – a major increase over the 57% figure recorded in 2012. The findings, which derive from a survey conducted by travel insurer SureSave, also show that in 2017, “40% of Australians booked their last overseas leisure trip with a travel agent (either in-store, over the phone or via email)”.

“Travelers are still turning to agents for their travel booking and insurance needs, but not because they view agents as the default booking option,” Ross McDonald, SureSave’s general manager distribution commented, “They’re coming back to agents time and time again as they genuinely seek and value the level of knowledge and expertise that agents offer.”

Travelers are also becoming increasingly savvy about the intricacies of travel insurance, and in particular the “window of risk”, which identifies the earliest point at which a traveler is at risk of being out of pocket.  In 2017, 53% of respondents purchased travel insurance “at the same time as booking their holiday”, in comparison to only 37% in 2012.

“We can attribute this marked improvement in part to the efforts of agents to educate their customers,” McDonald said.

“Of the respondents who booked travel plans through an agent, 86% revealed that their agent had explained the benefits of purchasing travel insurance at the same time as booking their travel plans. In terms of ensuring that travelers are informed and well-prepared in advance of their holiday, the role of the agent is crucial and is becoming more important each year.  We’re passionate about ensuring that agents are well-equipped with the right information and tools so their customers are able to choose the travel insurance policy that’s right for them.”

For Seychelles, it should never be forgotten that Tour Operators have been the faithful partners of the island’s tourism industry for decades, their printed programs proudly occupying many a shop window in key tourism source markets. This has helped to keep Seychelles visible and relevant as a tourism destination. The local agents of these Tour Operators, the DMCs on their part, continue to work with the Tourism Board to promote Seychelles products, making it a win-win for the country and local businesses.

Seychelles today needs to refocus on all of its tourism niche markets. The traditional niche markets of diving, sailing, fishing and bird watching must continue to be promoted. However, the time has come to boost and nurture the cruise tourism market in Seychelles. The port where tourists will disembark is the first experience the visitors will have of a given island; they will step onto the concrete slab, amid industrial containers, armed with their professional cameras, with nothing to take photographs of. Therefore, we must ensure our port is worthy of their scrutiny and attention. Moreover, with the town of Victoria abandoned by shopkeepers and businessmen after midday on Saturdays, and becoming a barren wasteland on Sundays, there is not much for tourists to see and do in the country’s capital on weekends. Local eateries are few and far between, and in terms of entertainment, the average tourist would have to travel to the other side of the island to engage in some water activities.

An example of a market which is yet to be tapped into is that of Casino Junkets. Casino operators would hire junketeers to fill a plane with qualified gamblers. These players would get free airfares, free hotel accommodations, free meals and free shows in exchange for their commitment to gamble a specific number of hours per day at an explicit average bet size. Casinos, of course, are operating on the assumption that the players would lose more than their out of pocket expenses for bringing, accommodating and feeding them.

With that said, it is important to again acknowledge all who are diligently re-posting the Saint Ange Tourism Report weekly. Our Report ranges far and wide, from Australia to the Americas, Africa to Asian and Greater Europe, with your continued support, which is greatly appreciated. You are helping us to go from strength to strength with each new Edition.

Aquaculture in Seychelles?

Photo depicting a Mariculture setup similar to what will be established in the Seychelles. Photo source: NOAA webpage

As Seychelles looks for ways to grow its economy further, officials have steered towards the idea of Marine aquaculture (Mariculture). Mariculture refers to the culturing of marine species in sea pens, on the seafloor, or suspended in the water column or in on-land, man made systems such as ponds or tanks.

The concept is not new to Seychelles. In 1989, the Island Development Company (IDC) and the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB) established a prawn farm on the largest coralline island of Seychelles, Coetivy. The farm specifically cultured the Black Tiger Prawn, which is renowned globally for its exquisite taste. The operation was later abandoned in 2009 due to financial constraints, leaving the once beautiful island covered in concrete scars that are still apparent today.

Photo demonstrating the prawn ponds left abandoned on Coetivy Island, Seychelles. Photo source: http://www.paxgaea.com

There is also a currently operational black pearl oyster farm situated on Praslin, the second-most populated island of Seychelles. The farm was established in 1995, and produces the black lipped oyster and winged oyster specifically for the retailed jewelers market.

The newly emerging mariculture endeavor has identified four finned-fish species for the pilot project. They include the brown-marbled grouper, the iconic red emperor snapper, the mangrove snapper and the snub-nosed pompano. The fish produced will be almost exclusively for export and it is hoped that the industry will boast between 20,000 and 50,000 tonnes per annum.

Aquaculture brings with it several benefits (if it is done right). Mainly, it can reduce fishing pressure from wild stock. With the increasing demand for seafood globally, aquaculture produces a continuous food supply. This would be especially useful during the South-East Monsoon in Seychelles where fish stocks are limited due to rough seas. The industry can also create new job sectors, offering skilled opportunities in science and technology, thus expanding the local workforce.

Unfortunately, aquaculture also has significant environmental disadvantages. escapees may pose a threat to wild species. Cultured fish will most likely be reared from hatchlings and throughout time cause genetic dilution. If one of these fish escape into the wild and manages to breed with a wild specimen, drastic genetic loss may take place causing a disastrous rippling effect in nature. Furthermore, the methods that will be incorporated in Seychelles include floating pens. These pens allow for waste materials such as fecal matter and uneaten food scraps to be deposited on the seafloor which can be carried by sea currents towards neighbouring coral reefs, seagrass habitats and mangrove forests causing possible detriment to these vital ecosystems.

In addition this waste material can be the source of an emerging artificial food chain. Uneaten food may attract fish from the wild towards the pen, with it brings larger predators, such as sharks which may add an increased risk to swimmers. Other major environmental concerns include the use of a variety of chemicals, including antifoulants, pesticides, and antibiotics, which can have negative effects on marine ecosystems or even human health.

The relevant authorities in Seychelles had hosted several public consultations with international consultants of the project present to address any questions. I personally attended several of the meetings to gain an insight into the views of the public. It was made clear that the majority of the citizens present at the meetings were against the project altogether. Several concerns were raised, such as why local scientific expertise was not consulted in the development phase instead of relying solely on foreign consultants to decide the fate of the project? Another interesting point that was raised was why were more sustainable species, such as shellfish, not considered?

The major issue raised, however, was the fear of possible increase in shark activity. The consultants were quick to state that there is no scientific proof that shark frequency is increased with aquaculture pens. However, several scientific studies done around the world have demonstrated that sharks do in fact show increased activity in areas containing aquaculture pens, thus increasing risks to human attacks (e.g.,Galaz & de Maddalena 2004, NOAA 2005). Looking closer to Seychelles, a recent publication in the African Journal of Marine Science demonstrated the large bull sharks are showing high site fidelity to aquaculture pens around Reunion Island (Loiseau et al. 2016). Although shark attacks on humans are a rare occurrence, the fact remains that increased shark activity in coastal areas that are prominent swimming spots by tourists and locals are going to be put under greater risk.

Back in 2012, Seychelles was smeared over international media after there were two fatal shark attacks that occurred within weeks from each other, and in the same bay on Praslin Island. The cause of the attacks where most likely due to constant food disposal from yachts and other pleasure boats that frequently docked in the area. This theory was considered most likely by shark experts that were leading the investigation. These chumming activities may have altered large shark feeding behaviour, thus attracting them to the bay where the attacks happened. Could the aquaculture pens in Seychelles cause the same effect?

Although there is a great downside to aquaculture, all of these risks can be managed to a bare minimum if strict protocols are followed. Let us not forget that tourism remains the main pillar of the Seychelles Economy. Venturing into other avenues of economic growth may prove to be an even greater asset to Seychelles. However, one needs to question whether it is worth the risk.

Article by Ameer Ebrahim, Environmental Consultant

References

  • Galaz T, de Maddalena A (2004) On a great white shark trapped in a tuna cage off Libya, Mediterranean Sea. Annales Series Historia Naturalis 14:159-163.
  • Loiseau N, Kiszka JJ, Bouveroux T, Heithaus MR, Soria M, Chabanet P (2016) Using an unbaited stationary video system to investigate the behaviour and interactions of bull sharks Carcharhinus leucas under an aquaculture farm. African Journal of Marine Science 38:73-79.
  • NOAA Small Business Innovation Research Program (2005) Development of effective and low cost predator exclusion devices for offshore aquaculture facilities in the United States EEZ. Contract No. DG133R05-CN-1200: Snapperfarm, Inc.

Working with FORSEAA, the ‘Forum of Small Medium Economic AFRICA ASEAN’

Bupati Rita Widyasari for Kutai Kartanegara Region of Indonesia

Seychelles and Indonesia are set to cooperate even more than before through FORSEAA, the ‘Forum of Small Medium Economic AFRICA ASEAN’. My recent appointment as Deputy Secretary General of FORSEAA is set to consolidate the excellent ties already existing between the two countries.

Bupati Rita Widyasari, Nico Barito and Alain St.Ange

FORSEAA is an intergovernmental forum founded by Seychelles and Indonesia with members from AFRICA and ASEAN countries, with its permanent secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia.

One of the FORSEAA programs is to achieve SME in Culture & Tourism by the active role of the host community to develop a compassionate destination, based on the diverse cultures of Indonesia. Specifically for small islands eco-tourism,  FORSEAA will accelerate the cooperation between AFRICA ASEAN especially Seychelles and Indonesia by pairing the brand image of Seychelles in eco-marine tourism. FORSEAA is working to see from the world at large, how it can assist the many small pristine islands in Indonesia to contribute economically to Seychelles.

As the Deputy Secretary General at FORSEAA, we shall continue to organize for example the visit by youths and students from the Community of Nations to Kutai Kartanegara in East Kalimantan as part of its effort to help promote compassionate destinations of eco-culture in Indonesia

Seychelles Special Envoy for ASEAN, Mr. Nico Barito said the youth and students on previous such trips came from France, Netherlands, Japan, Liberia, Madagascar, Belgium, Dominican Republic, and Italy.

The initial 10 days itinerary provides the international youth with excursions to various local destinations of eco-culture as well as the opportunity to mingle with local people.

“The program gives economic benefits to local people, particularly homestay owners, restaurants, tourist guides, cultural activists, and handicraft traders and has offered local youths rare opportunities to interact with youths from other countries”, said Mrs Rita Widyasari, the Bupati  (local premier) of Kutai Kartanegara.

Mrs Rita Widyasari, the Bupati  (local premier) of Kutai Kartanegara. with Alain St.Ange

Mrs Rita added that 2017 has been declared as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism by United Nations and Kutai Kartanegara is proud to participate and focus to promote tourists with the protection of the environment and culture and empowerment of women and youths as part of its program to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG).

The program which is coordinated through FORSEAA “Forum of Small Medium Economic AFRICA ASEAN” would continue to bring international tourists, especially youths who want to explore nature adventure and eco-culture in Indonesia, said Mr. Rega the program officer of FORSEAA in Indonesia.

He also said that FORSEAA will replicate the Kutai Kartanegara  program for the development of culture tourism within other local governments of Indonesia.

“Developing tourist destinations is like the question of what comes first, the chicken or the egg. Our experience in Seychelles shows that when destinations are well promoted, tourists would come and the development of infrastructure and world class accommodation would follow suit,” Nico Barito said.

Seaweed harvesting begins in Seychelles 

Seaweed Factory on Praslin

An innovative, new factory is today nearing completion on Praslin. This project is the brainchild of Benjamin Port Louis who is in his final year at James Cook University in Townsville in Australia.  With the support of his father, Bernard Port Louis, he is constructing a new Seaweed harvesting business on Eve Island, Praslin.

Bernard Port Louis  

They will be collecting washed up seaweed from the beaches surrounding the Inner islands, and processing it to extract the organic matter in liquid form. This seaweed liquid will be sold to agricultural farmers as fertiliser, and it is believed that it will increase crop yield by 25%. The factory is expected to produce up to 8000 litres of seaweed liquid per day, which will make it one of the largest producers of seaweed liquid in the world.

The promoters say that there will be no waste. While the liquid is extracted, the solid leftovers will be grounded to powder to produce soil conditioner. This promising endeavour has been endorsed by CSIRO, a leading establishment of research in Australia.

We spoke with the owner of the factory, Mr Bernard Port Louis who stated, “I am proud to say that Seaweed Seychelles Pty Ltd is 100 % Seychellois owned. Even our contractor, Mr. Barry Souffe was chosen to construct the factory”. Mr Port Louis went on to say that, “We believe in sustainable development for our islands and so decided to develop the factory accordingly. We installed a solar hot water system that can produce 4000 litres of hot water per day and we have also installed a 12 kilowatts photovoltaic Solar system to produce the electricity for the running of the factory.”

This establishment has been a long-awaited endeavour for the tourism Industry on Praslin. The accumulation of seaweed on some of the beaches has become a serious issue, posing a great challenge for hoteliers who have been trying to market Seychelles as having white sandy beaches, and crystal clear waters. This selling tool has been much to the disappointment of several visitors who experience smelly, seaweed-filled beaches throughout the South-East monsoon months in Seychelles. Therefore, many of the hoteliers on Praslin have described the seaweed factory as a blessing in disguise, and have promised to give the endeavour their full support. Mr. Alain Ah-Thion has been appointed the person who will be coordinating the collection of seaweed from the beaches of Praslin.

The Saint Ange Tourism Report takes this opportunity to wish the Port Louis family success with their project.  

Africa’s Eco-Friendly Gems

2017 marks the international year for sustainable tourism. In an earlier issue of the Saint Ange Report, we explained that tourism establishments that promote sustainable tendencies are fast becoming one of the most sought after enterprises by travelers. Sustainable development in the tourism industry is not only showing economic benefits, but also community and socio-economic linkages being formed, cultural preservation being established, and educational awareness to both local and international visitors.

As an international influence for travel in the continent of Africa, TourismTattler.com has joined global media in promoting the aims and aspirations of the UNWTO International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017 (#IY2017).

The aim of the UNWTO #IY2017 initiative is to promote tourism’s role in the following five key areas:

(1) Inclusive and sustainable economic growth
(2) Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction
(3) Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change
(4) Cultural values, diversity and heritage
(5) Mutual understanding, peace and security.

Through a series of advertorial features published throughout this year, Tourism Tattler is profiling case studies of African destinations and Africa based tourism products and services which meet and in many cases exceed sustainable tourism practices.

We recently spoke with Mr. Des Langkilde, Executive Editor and Publisher of Tourism Tattler. He says that, “Environmental conservation is everyone’s concern, and the objective of this series is to raise awareness amongst eco-conscious travelers (consumers) and the international travel trade on Africa’s role in Sustainable Tourism, and to highlight the practical initiatives that these destinations and properties have implemented in their business operations.”  We also asked Mr. Langkilde about the costs involved to be featured on Tourism Tattler, and he replied, “There is a nominal charge to be included in these advertorial features, but with the extended reach in excess of 300 million users across multiple media distribution channels, and with the inclusion of images, logo, contact details and social media hyper-links, it’s certainly worth the price”. He went on to say, “We’ve discounted our standard magazine rates by 75% to encourage as many Africa based destinations and tourism product owners as possible to participate in this monthly series”.

“Ultimately, we want to create a single, comprehensive list of Africa’s Eco-Friendly destinations and products, so all of the featured listings in this series will also be published in a special Travel Guide due for release in January 2018.”

As seen in previous issues of the Saint Ange Report, there are many establishments here in Seychelles that are leaders in sustainability, and we encourage them to look into the great work that Mr. Langkilde and his team is doing to showcase the concept on a global scale. For more information visit TourismTattler IYSTD2017 Initiative (http://www.tourismtattler.com/tourismtattler-iystd2017-initiative)

Denis Private Island – a quarter of a century on

Martin and Carol Bibby returned to the white sandy shores of Denis Private Island recently after  25 years  of being away. What has changed over the past 25 years? Everything. Or nothing at all. It simply depends on your perspective, and this honeymoon couple has the photographic evidence.

For Martin, who was planning a surprise honeymoon for Carol at the turn of the ‘90s, Seychelles was already a familiar name, due to his father’s travels in connection with the islands’ colonial administration in the late 1950s. “I wanted to go somewhere really remote,” Martin says. He was considering the Maldives in addition to Seychelles, but ultimately decided on Denis Island, and the rustic island experience was everything they imagined.

Probably the most interesting constant for Martin and Carol Bibby on their return to Denis Island, 25 years after their honeymoon, was Toby the tortoise. Following the honeymoon, however, they set about raising a family – with four children no less – so getting back to Denis had not been possible until earlier this year.

Whereas Toby the tortoise hasn’t changed much in 25 years, there are several aspects of Denis, and Seychelles in general, that have changed immensely, as the couple noticed.

“The rooms are enormously different – they were very basic and rustic shacks albeit lovely for what we wanted – remote and adventurous. Now the rooms are much larger and more luxurious. The bathrooms are so lovely now…hot and cold water!”

“The food was very good back then but there was not a huge amount of choice. Now the food is amazing. And we weren’t treated to a wonderful, romantic meal on the beach as we were this time.”

“There appear to be more staff now, and we were very aware of them all – in a good way.  So helpful and friendly and always with a smile and wishing you good/morning/afternoon/evening.”

“The facilities have certainly improved by just the right amount, without spoiling it. As before there is no TV or internet in the room, which is fantastic! The bikes in particular have changed the experience as we could now explore the whole island much more easily.”

The couple also commended the island’s strong approach towards conservation and sustainability, noting that this had been lacking 25 years prior.

The other main constant, aside from Toby? Their principle activity, which was to relax. “Reading or walking with nothing to worry about but admiring the beautiful island and empty beaches!” Martin says.

One other thing is certain: it’s not going to take another 25 years for Martin and Carol to return. “Denis is a very special place to us, and holds many happy memories,” Martin says. “Now that our children are all grown up, we hope to return as soon as it is viably possible.”

An Untapped Tourism Niche Market

The Seychelles is currently missing out on enormous revenue that can be obtained by globally established casinos. These casinos may bring in hoards of rich gamblers to our shores by providing flights, transport, accommodation in world-class resorts, and entertainment such as boat trips and island visits. Furthermore, these high rollers would spend large amounts of money on shopping and dining during their stay, further adding economic benefit. Also, as the saying goes ‘the odds are always in favour of the casino’. Not to discourage gambling, but statistics show that there is a greater chance of the money staying with the house, rather than leaving the house. With ‘the house’ being Seychelles in this instance, further economic benefit is established.

Countries like Macau and Monaco are known for their luxurious casinos, and almost exclusively economically built through the courting of high roller gamblers, also known as junket players. Junket players originated in the US many years ago in a ploy to build up the now famous city of Las Vegas. Casino operators in Las Vegas would hire ‘junketeers’ to fill a plane with qualified gamblers. These players would be treated to free airfares, hotel accommodations, meals and free shows in exchange for their commitment to gamble a specific number of hours per day at an explicit average bet size. The casinos assumed that the players would lose than what was invested to bring them to the tables, and most of the time they were right. Sooner or later, the junket player concept had become a global enterprise.

These players have expressed that they would love to be brought to the Seychelles to gamble and at the same time to enjoy the exotic tropical delights of our country, a combination they can rarely find elsewhere. Unfortunately current legislation prohibits local casinos from inviting them.

There is of course understandable concern about the possibility of money laundering with junket players and the lack of control if the financial transactions take place outside the Seychelles.  In this context, it is very important to note that if these players are brought to Seychelles that authorities will need to regulate all the player cash transactions for a junket, and that these transactions only take place in the casino based in Seychelles. Legislation about junkets and their control also needs to be put in place beforehand.

The Seychelles tourism industry is presently missing a huge opportunity in bringing these high roller players to our country. We already have in place the excellent infrastructure with the hotels and resorts where any of these players would feel at home.

Embracing Culture through Music

Keven Valentin is a patriotic Seychellois who remains at the forefront of the Creole music industry.
He started his music and dance careers in 1982 as a member of the National Troupe of Seychelles where the foundation for his artistic future was laid. In 1989, he joined the group Bwa Gayak as a choreographer, dancer and percussionist. There he acquired  invaluable international experience, which ultimately led to his decision to form his own group, Sokwe.

His music DVD is a must-have for Tour Operators within the tourism industry.

(email : sokwesesel@yahoo.com)

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