Officials of the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association (SHTA) and the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) waded into the lagoon at Au Cap on the main island of Mahe last Friday and used the occasion to underline concerns about challenges facing the trade.
A couple of divers also presented the SHTA chairman, Louis D’Offay, with a sealed bottle, retrieved from the sea, and containing a “message from nature.”
Also present at the innovative gathering were other SHTA officials - Secretary Daniella-Alis-Payet, Treasurer Alan Mason, Executive Director Raymond St.Ange, and Nirmal Jivan Shah, Chief Executive of Nature Seychelles and an active member of the association, as well as Alain St.Ange, Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board.
Mr. D’Offay, who grew up at Au Cap, said that while it was not the most beautiful in Seychelles, the beach there is still among the finest in the world, representing the best attraction Seychelles has to offer - its natural environment.
He said that while total visitor arrivals in 2011 was a record 194,000, despite economic turmoil in Europe, coupled with the drop in value of the euro, this year promises to be a tough one, given the many difficulties facing the trade.
Mr. D’Offay said during these difficult times it is all the more pressing why government ministries should act as facilitators and make things easier for tourism operators. He said it is important that all SHTA members have a say in what is going on.
“The SHTA is all about tourism in Seychelles, the hotels, DMCs, car hires, and boat operators, and not just the business of a few hotel operators,” he said.
Mr. D’Offay said the pullout of Air Seychelles from Europe, the country’s main tourism market, has cast uncertainty among foreign tour operators selling Seychelles.On other factors, he said that while it is obvious that hotels will have to discount, they shall also have to bear higher operating costs - such as higher Value Added Tax (Vat) and electricity rates. He also stressed that to be able to better compete with other destinations, it is also imperative that Seychelles remains visible on the world tourism scene.
Once again, he made a plea to government to increase resources made available to the country’s Tourism Board, to beef up its marketing efforts. The Seychelles Tourism Board’s CEO Alain St.Ange said he is optimistic for tourism, despite anticipated difficulties.
He said the 2012 tourism arrival target is 200,000, which may seem a huge number as this is over twice the total number of the island’s population, but there are some emerging markets, such as China, that need to be taken into consideration. He said the beach setting at Au Cap is a reminder that everywhere in Seychelles there are clean and safe beaches. There are also the people, service, and hospitality, which together, constitute the package.
Mr. St.Ange stressed there was an ever urgent need for everyone to work together to overcome any difficulties. He noted that when a few years ago, the Tourism Board set about to change the perception that Seychelles was “too expensive” into an “affordable destination,” it seemed a daunting task. “But the Tourism Board’s perseverance paid off, and the continued increase in tourism numbers in recent years bears testimony to that,” he said.
Dr. Shah said it is important that the environment is Seychelles’ main attraction, and he commended the SHTA for planning the gathering in the lagoon to underline the point.