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Tourism in Seychelles – “status quo is just not an option” says Minister

July 16, 2014 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

Minister Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture answered questions from a Middle East press organisation on the eve of delivering his opening remarks to the island’s Tourism Board mid-year review meeting set for Wednesday the 16th July at the Savoy Resort on Mahé’s Beau Vallon Beach.

In reply to a question on what changes can be expected from what has been in place since he moved from the Tourism Board when he was the CEO, Minister St.Ange said that today the country as a whole is conscious that everyone has a role to play to help address the challenges facing the Seychelles tourism industry. The Minister was referring to the first inter-ministerial tourism meeting chaired by Vice President Danny Faure held last week. In this milestone meeting, four Ministers and most Principal Secretaries and Director Generals of the Civil Service joined the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association and the island’s Chamber of Commerce and Industries to discuss challenges being faced by the Seychelles Tourism Industry.

official minister's

official minister’s

“Seychelles has taken a big leap forward through this inter-ministerial meeting where everything deemed to be a challenge to the island’s tourism industry is tabled and discussed in an open, pragmatic and cordial manner. Every Minister of the Government has a part to play to consolidate the tourism industry, and this first meeting chaired by Vice President Faure showed clearly from points raised that the private sector members needed re-assurance and actions from a cross section of Ministries and Government Departments” said Minister Alain St.Ange.

The Minister said that the Ministry of Tourism and Culture now has to re-look at policy reorientation vis-a-vis the marketing of the destination and the operational framework for tourism businesses.  “The status quo is just not an option. We need to re-look at our strategies in France, Germany and the rest of Europe to ensure we are claiming a fairer share of that European Market.  We need to re-visit our drive in China and Hong Kong to ensure we work towards our direct non-stop flights and get the visitor arrival numbers we want and need. We need to re-strategise in the Middle East and the whole GCC countries as more can be done in this part of the world from where we have more airline seats flying to Seychelles than from anywhere else. Plus we need to place more emphasis on the fact that we are but four hours away from that part of the world and that they, like the rest of the world, can enter Seychelles with no visa requirements whatsoever.  We need to examine at our presence in South Africa and indeed in Africa as a whole, and also quickly re-position ourselves in La Reunion now that we now enjoy non-stop, direct air access with this neighbouring island.”

The Minister cited the importance of opening India ahead of Air Seychelles’ direct flight to that country which is imminent because, given links with India and Seychelles’ geographic location, it is a golden opportunity to capture the attention of potential Indian visitors and also airline passengers from India travelling through Seychelles to onward destinations in Africa.

Minister St.Ange spoke about the need for the hospitality industry to embrace the Creole Culture of Seychelles. “We have accepted that without our culture, our country’s tourism industry would be on an unstable foundation. The need to see more traditional Seychellois Creole Cuisine served to our visitors, and the need to entertain our visitors with more sounds of the Seychellois music is today more needed that ever before. The September Praslin Culinary and Arts Fiesta is aimed at refocusing our traditional cuisine as a unique selling point of our islands. We shall help those establishments who are not ashamed to serve Seychellois Creole cuisine in their establishments by ensuring their visibility as a property. We must find more ways to mainstream our culture into our tourism because all our research shows that today’s visitors are in search of touch points where they connect with our culture. It is not about sun, sea and sand anymore but rather about providing visitors with authentic experiences of our culture and way of life that they can take home as memories and talk to their friends about..” the Minister said.

He also encouraged greater collaboration with Air Seychelles and other partner airlines to ensure that these partnerships are everything it should be, working hard to streamline and render more efficient common protocols where necessary so that Seychelles as a whole does not lose face or credibility with its customer base. He also welcomed greater airline commitment to providing the FOC tickets which are a crucial component for the work by the Tourism Board in getting Seychelles more known in the world of tourism and in helping trade partners sell Seychelles.

The Minister noted that when the highly volatile tourism industry experiences a downward turn, it is to be expected that tourism agencies fall under scrutiny and accept the lion’s share of responsibility. However, he pointed out that there is another side to this coin: namely that those agencies who are responsible directly or indirectly for tourism must do everything in their power to collaborate efficiently, whole-heartedly and unreservedly in their daily operations to promote our islands in the international arena, open and maintain new markets and achieve market share.

He went on to remark that from monitoring forward bookings and load factors it can be seen that some hub airports are facing their own challenges, so all must be done to mitigate our downward turns in traffic to ensure the continued health of airlift to the islands which is recognized as being the lifeline of our tourism industry.

Minister St.Ange also spoke about the impact on the livelihood of the Seychellois workforce, and about the implications for every business who has invested in one way or another when the island’s tourism industry is not performing. “If we all know this, and if we are all realistic that this hurts the Seychellois and the whole business community, why then are some of us so eager to spread adverse or negative news about Seychelles? Tourism is, and tourism will remain a volatile industry and for its continued consolidation our destination needs to be seen to be a safe one where security at all levels is the name of the game. The malaise of the day must remain our own dirty laundry that we wash amongst ourselves. Publishing it all for the world to see is just trying to be more catholic than the Pope can ever be himself and serves no purpose whatsoever.” the Minister said.

In his closing comment the Minister said “Many have been watching the recent FIFA World Cup and the fortunes of the teams where one thing became hugely apparent which I believe to be analogous to our tourism industry: that totally irrespective of star-players, celebrity strikers and would-be messiahs, those lesser, mortal teams who PLAYED as a team, achieved stellar results while the others went home empty-handed.

We should learn from this: that by working together we are greater than the sum of our parts and that together we can reach places and objectives that it would be impossible to reach alone. Seychelles, we must play as a team to win big.”

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