The third in a series of four tourism trade public meetings organized by Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister for Tourism, in collaboration with the island’s Tourism Board and the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association (SHTA) spearheaded a move this week to the inner islands of Praslin, the home of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Vallee de Mai, and of the unique Fond Ferdinand.
Praslin is the island that was once the tourism center of the Seychelles and has been trailing behind Mahe because of some constraints of accessibility, as was tabled by the members of the tourism private sector.
Trade partners on Praslin were described by the Seychelles Minister as the frontline players of tourism industry. “You have responded positively to the meeting at the Tante Mimi Restaurant for you to be updated on what is going on in the tourism industry and for you to voice out there your own constraints and suggestions,” Minister Alain St.Ange said.
During the public meeting, it was highlighted by the tourism trade that a larger segment of the Praslin population is either working or investing in the tourism industry. The Praslin tourism industry, it was also said, continues to represent a major source of the income revenues derived from the tourism sector.
The tourism industry yield and the current rate of occupancy for Praslin were raised as two pertinent issues of concern for the hotel establishments on Praslin.
The Seychelles Minister St.Ange, chairing the meeting alongside the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, with Louis D’Offay, the Vice Chairperson of the association; Daniella Alis-Payet; and Peter Pomeroy, a committee member of the association’s Board of Directors; together with Seychelles Tourism Board Director for the Africa&the Americas explained to the trade partners that the government does not wish to start regulating the rates charged by hotels, as this would be taking a step back in time. “Individual property yield is determined by the hotel themselves based on the applicable rate the hotelier feels his property can command vis-a-vis the completion he faces not here alone, but in the region. “Hotels alone do not represent the country’s yield from the tourism industry; we need to get more and new services and attractions for tourists to use and spend their holiday budget when they are in Seychelles. This is how the yield from tourism as an industry will grow, but this is and remains in the hands of the private sector,” Minister St.Ange said.
On the question of hotel occupancy figures, Minister Alain St.Ange accepted that Praslin was today suffering due to different constraints. “We’ve taken time to analyze arrivals versus hotel occupancy. Yes, there is discrepancy, because the Seychelles is losing up to 18% of its visitor arrivals to other accommodation bodies. The statistics published are correct, but we need a paper trail to see who and where the losses are happening,” said Minister St.Ange.
The revised rates of domestic airfares was tabled by the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association at the trade meeting as being one of the main reasons causing an adverse effect to the tourism trade of Praslin. “This issue has been tabled with the respective authorities concerned in a bid to seek a comprehensive relook at the situation for the benefit of all parties concerned,” the Chairman of the Tourism Industry’s Association said.
Other members of the tourism trade partners said that the new tariffs are unacceptable and should be revised as they are not giving a positive image to the tourism industry, especially for hotels on Praslin, which depends on inflows of visitors seeking an island experience.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, Louis D’Offay, thanked Alain St.Ange, the Minister for Tourism and Culture, for his personal efforts in leading his ministry to continue to work with the SHTA, the association representing the tourism industry, and for organizing the series of trade public meetings. Mr. Louis D’Offay said the Seychelles Hotel and Tourism Association’s number one priority is to work with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and in so doing to be better able to represent all the islands’ tourism trade partners.
“Today, publicly, I would like to say thank you to Minister St.Ange for his offer to meet with me as Chairman of the SHTA on a monthly basis. This is commendable. It shows the importance given to an association representing the private sector. This is a new practice for a member of Seychelles government,” Mr. D’Offay said.
Minister St.Ange also announced that proposals put forward by the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association to seek the acceptance of a Marketing Committee to be the advisory body for the Tourism Board has been accepted.
“Tourism, it’s true, is going through the most difficult period, when our main traditional markets are suffering from their own economic ills. This is why we ask for togetherness in how we move forward from now on. We know that we need visibility as a small country. Those of us who travel to trade fairs and conduct sales calls would appreciate how more talked about we are today than ever before, and how the tourism trade in all our key markets are today more updated on the unique selling points of Seychelles,” Louis D’Offay said.
He then went on to say said that he is “unsure that if it was not for Minister St.Ange, the Seychelles news bureau wouldn’t have taken this mammoth step forward. But these efforts are paying off, and this is where we as the tourism trade, we need to get more positive news to the ministry to ensure that those positives from our end also make the news and in so doing keeping the word Seychelles in the fore line.’’
Reacting on the statement of Mr. D’Offay, Minister Alain St.Ange extended his thanks for the spirit echoed by the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association and their desire to continue working with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.
“You raised the point that I have accepted to meet with you as Chairman of the Association on a monthly basis. I feel that we need to keep this dialogue going with the SHTA so that together we can work to move the tourism industry forward. There’s no government and private sector in this. There’s only a tourism industry. For the tourism industry to work we all need to be together,” Minister Alain St.Ange said
On the basis of re-positioning Seychelles on the South African market in a bid to diversify its markets, both Minister St. Ange and Mr. D’Offay welcomed the move for more flights on the continent saying that the twin-center approach between Brazil and South America would help make this line more variable for Air Seychelles.
“I think Mr. D’Offay hit the nail on the head for us having to diversify. The Ministry and the Tourism Board have been taking about it. Waiting for the economy of our traditional markets to pick up, we would go bankrupt as a country. This is why we’ve been seeking alternative markets. South Africa has the potential and so does the twin-center approach with Brazil and Argentina. We’ve realized how big these markets are, and we are ready to conquer them,” explained Minister St. Ange.