Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture, has called on the island’s business community to work together and to understand the tourism industry if they are to continue to push for the consolidation of the industry that remains the pillar of the Seychelles economy. Minister St.Ange made the appeal at the 2012 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce&Industry (SCCI).
As guest speaker at the SCCI Annual General Meeting, Minister St.Ange has expressed his appreciation for the request by the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce&Industry to get to know more about the island’s tourism industry as he said he hoped that the business community of Seychelles will better understand the economic impact of tourism, an industry that has all the potential to stimulate the local economy through multiple effects, which can be direct, indirect, and induced.
“Tourism is everyone’s business. Every minister in the government has the responsibility of tourism in one way or another. Tourism can be promoted or destroyed by every single person in this hall, or destroyed by each and every one of us in Seychelles. This is because tourism remains everyone’s business,’’ Minister Alain St.Ange said.
Over the past four years, outlined Minister St.Ange, the Seychelles tourism industry has evolved with an impressive growth in tourism arrival from 154,541 in 2009 to 194,476 in 2011. Air connectivity has also grown to now ensure a greater number of weekly flights between Seychelles and the world.
Tourism marketing, with the support of key private sector partners, has contributed in positioning the island’s tourism industry as one of Seychelles’ main economic pillars. The Minister responsible for Tourism also informed the business community that the islands have seen the opening of four additional overseas tourism offices in London, Abu Dhabi , Beijing, and Pretoria, with the recruitment of a strong pool of Seychelles nationals manning these offices, and that these new offices came over and above the six original overseas tourism offices in Seychelles’ core markets in Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, and in emerging markets of Cape Town, Dubai, and Seoul. The Minister also said that Seychelles’ promotional visibility on the international scene has been accentuated with the new News Bureau in Seychelles and one in London “to spell out the daily, the positives about Seychelles and its tourism industry.”
The role of the private sector in leading the tourism industry has been underestimated. “Their representatives as Directors on the Tourism Board showcased the private-public partnership, as they helped lay down long-term plans amid economic downturn in the island’s main traditional markets,” Minister St.Ange said.
“Yes, we have had some tough times. Nobody could have prepared us for the full extent of the financial crisis. In some respects, the tough times are also not yet over. The Eurozone remains in crisis and very much so. Some traditional markets remain subdued. … However, we are still growing steadily and have taken lessons from the downturn. We understand that we have to balance regional and long-haul arrivals, as well as leisure and business tourism. We realize that we must invest early in growth markets of the future. We modestly accept that we can always do better and that, together, we have to fight for every inch of our market share,” the Minister said to the gathered business community.
Minister St.Ange said that the satisfaction of the tourism industry rests on the satisfaction of the visitors, and he has called on the business community to rally for a concerted effort to boost the Seychelles’ main industry.
“This rests, yes, on the welcome and service at our hotels, but it also rests on their welcome at the airport, on our ability to showcase the assets of our country, and on our ability not to destroy what we have been handed over as our pristine and most idyllic natural environment to care for as good custodians. The success of our tourism industry is for Seychelles to be able to see, and to ensure, that it gets its due returns from its industry - tourism - the pillar of its economy,” Minister St.Ange said.
In a bid to attain the objectives of the country’s tourism industry for 2020, Minister St.Ange stressed on the importance of Seychelles to increase its occupancy level and to increase Seychelles presence on neighboring markets and on the new markets like Africa, China, India, and the Americas.
“Achieving these 2020 targets will not only fall into our laps. Over the next eight years, we will have to work harder than ever before, we will need to work together as we have done in the past. Together we must keep our eyes on every changing consumer preferences, diversifying our products, maintaining excellent service, innovate our distribution channels, and ensure that we continue to deliver value for money. We must ensure that all our people share in the benefits of our new growth, which is why every year from this year onward, I, together with the Tourism Board, will look forward to the success stories of our industry through a Best Achievers of the Year Award winner, but also each and every small entrepreneur and individual employee who forms part of our value chain and contributes to the success to our economy as a whole,” the Minister responsible for Tourism said.
Minister St.Ange has also emphasized onset targets by the Tourism Board to further consolidate its presence on the Chinese and Indian markets. He appealed for a collective response to prepare to “harness the growth of the Asia market” and to be better prepared to “cater for these travelers’ needs,” as well as he appealed to everyone to join forces to ensure Seychelles remains “aggressive defending its core and traditional markets in Europe.”
In regard to Seychelles’ strategy of the Vanilla Islands, Minister St.Ange projected by 2020 an increase in air links within the region, facilitating “hassle-free travel between islands of the Indian Ocean, and to work with likeminded partners in other long-haul destinations to fight aggressive unilateralism with which new unfair taxes on international tourism are imposed.”
“We must unlock the benefits of aviation on our region. Air Seychelles has moved forward in the right direction. We all knew that no long-haul destination can go without a properly-capitalized, commercially-viable national carrier that is well run and strategically focused. At the same time, we, as tourism people, know that we need more competition in the skies, as well as partnerships with as many airlines as possible. We know that we must offer our costumers decent airfares and convenient air access,” the Minister said.
After his address, the Minister was questioned about the yield received by the country from tourism, to which he replied: “Hotels, big and small, pitch their rates as they see fit as business men and women. We will not dictate the rate for hotels. They are guided by the competition that exists here and in the region, and where they feel they can pitch themselves. Yield from tourism is not only room rates, it is also what we have on offer for our visitors to buy or spend their money on. The government has opened the doors for the business community to step in and do business and innovate into new businesses, which will offer new activities for our visitors and in so doing increase spending by our visitors. This will help increase the yield from our tourism industry,” Minister Alain St.Ange said.