SEYCHELLES TOURISM PRIVATE SECTOR RAISES SAME CONCERNS, VALIDATES ISSUES
(Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture Alain St. Ange and Louis DOffay, Chairman of SHTA)
Following a recent article in which the concerns of the Seychelles private sector were expressed, and questions asked about a number of pressing and increasingly controversial issues vis a vis Air Seychelles and in particular Etihad, did the alarm bells shriek in some quarters of the Seychelles establishment. Yet, as became apparent yesterday in a meeting between the SHTA and the Minister for Tourism, these issues are indeed as important to the private sector as individuals, leading members of the tourism trade by the way, had expressed to this correspondent while on the islands last week. They asked questions, not all of which were in fact reflected in the said article, as it was clear they would strike a nerve within certain quarters and prompt a sharpish reaction.
Those questions were raised in the spirit of constructive engagement, and those who regularly read articles about the Seychelles here, know that there is overwhelming sympathy and support for the archipelagos tourism industry right across the board. A media release just received, about the meeting and what was said by the Chairman of the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association Mr. Louis DOffay, once again spell out the issues raised in the article of last Wednesday and this correspondent affirms each and every aspect to be correct and valid, no matter how much it hits the raw nerves of those now under scrutiny and increasing pressure, to accept the private sectors recommendations and demands. Read what Mr. DOffay had to say and in what spirit this was said, not to seek confrontation but to constructively engage government and avoid that the goose which lays the golden eggs is slaughtered on the slab of expediency and misguided protection of a course going into the wrong direction.
SEYCHELLES TOURISM INDUSTRY’S PRIVATE SECTOR STANDS WITH THE ISLAND’S MINISTER OF TOURISM
The Seychelles has been taking note of addresses, remarks and questions coming from a series of public meetings for the islands tourism industry across the main islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue. It was the Louis DOffay, the Chairman of the Seychelles Hospitality & Tourism Association (SHTA) himself who addressed the private sector players at the Praslin and La Digue meetings, and he was accompanied by Daniella Payet-Alis, the associations Vice Chairperson.
Louis DOffay took the floor after Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture had delivered his own address. The series of public meetings had been called by the Minister as a means to hear the trade and to openly offer an opportunity for a public dialogue between the Tourism Minister and the islands tourism private sector.
Mr Louis DOffay, the Chairman of the Seychelles Hospitality & Tourism Association (SHTA) started his address saying: Today we are happy to be standing with the Minister of Tourism on Praslin for their third meeting with the Tourism trade. The initiative to hold these public meetings speaks volumes on the determination of the Ministry, and of its Minister to remain connected with the industrys front line team, us the trade. As chairman of the SHTA I thank the Minister for his personal effort in leading his Ministry with us in his mind. Listening to us, hearing us and understanding us is easier said than done, but with the Tourism Minister I can say this is so.
Is all well? No, and I would be lying if I said all was well.. This is why I am personally happy Minister that you have undertaken this series of public meetings with the Tourism trade. The importance for us, the tourism trade, to be working with the Ministry of Tourism and the Tourism Board is Priority Nº1 on our list. Today publicly I say thank you to Minister Alain St.Ange for his offer to meet with me as Chairman of the SHTA on a monthly. This offer is commendable. It shows the importance given to our private sector association. This is a new practice for a member of the Seychelles Government, but Minister Alain St.Ange was one of us, and he comes from our ranks. As Alain St.Ange, he worked alongside us most of his life. Because we all know him also points to us the void that was created when he moved from being the one in charge of our countrys Marketing. With our support he changed the way the marketing of Seychelles was done, and he succeeded, that is clear, but now that he has assumed the position of Minister, we have seen the hole he left behind.
This void has prompted us, the tourism industry, to seek the acceptance of a new private sector led Marketing Committee to be advisory body for the Tourism Board. This has been accepted, and we are thankful, as this will help us through this difficult time. Tourism is going through the most difficult period with our main traditional markets suffering from their own economic difficulties. This is why we asked for continued togetherness in how we move forward from now on.
We know that we need visibility as a small country. This was a means never handled before Alain St.Ange took over the responsibility of marketing of Seychelles. But visibility then became a necessity. Those of us who travel to trade fairs, and who conduct sales calls will appreciate how more talked about we are today, and how the tourism trade in all our key markets are today more updated on the Unique Selling Points of our Seychelles.
I am unsure if it is the Minister himself or the News Bureau of the Tourism Board who undertook this mammoth task, but their effort is paying off and their effort is working. This is where we now need to get more positive news to the Ministry and ensure that positives from our end also makes the news, and in so doing keeping the word Seychelles in the forefront. We all have to be realistic, positive news is not news. Expecting press to report on our beaches and on our natural beauty is not going to happen anymore because this same press has written over and over again of these key assets of ours. We have to be innovative and we have to be intelligent now to move forward to continue to have the word Seychelles on the world news wire.
Here on behalf of the SHTA, we appeal to everyone sitting here, and to everyone in Seychelles to work with the Ministry of Tourism to keep Seychelles in the limelight and visible on the newswire and on the press at large.
Marketing of Seychelles is also today an area where we all need to pull together. I was one who screamed about direct flights to Paris and Europe. This I still sincerely believe that it is a needed service for our islands tourism industry. Our country is disconnected unfortunately with what we have as policy guiding the Minister of Transport, and what we have guiding the Minister of Tourism. But as Ministers look at Seychelles and not just at Air Seychelles we have us, the trade to look beyond where we previously looked for tourists. This same point was made at the Mahe meetings, and today I am reiterating the point because it is important. Never forget that in the three points given by Blue Panorama for discontinuing their Seychelles flights one is the handling charges at the Seychelles Airport which is four times more that our competitors. It is Transport who can bring our charges into line, or it is also them who can open up and allow competition.
This is why we today need to rally to work with the Tourism Board to diversify our tourist markets. China and India, yes we need to follow as an industry, but let us look at South Africa now that Air Seychelles has confirmed that they will have four flights to Joburg from December. We all know that Air Seychelles cannot grow that market to double their passenger numbers to make four flights viable. This is where the twin centre approach with Brazil, South and North America is so important. South Africa has developed that Brazil market, and today it is working for them. Seychelles needs to be intelligent and piggyback on South Africa. We are happy to see that all our DMCs are now moving to Brazil to continue the works the Tourism Minister has personally started. This does not mean we must not continue to fight to get, a not only direct, but a nonstop flight to Paris. It is a needed boost we need for our industry. We must also put a greater effort on the Russian Market.
But these negatives have still not stopped us on our road to advance our industry forward. The much awaited Tourism Masterplan, we all took part in its planning and participating in its deliberations is now with us, we are looking at a revised VAT from January that will reduce our operational costs, we are moving Louis DOffay said.
The Seychelles Minister, Mr Alain St.Ange welcomed the support received by the tourism industrys private sector. As he thanked Mr Louis DOffay at the Praslin and La Digue meetings he said that his Ministry remains willing to continue to work with the industrys association for the continued consolidation of the Seychelles Tourism Industry.
At the La Digue Island public meeting Minister St.Ange was also joined by Ambassador Barry Faure, the Secretary of State in the Presidents Office and Chairman of the Tourism Board and the La Digue Development Board.
With all this said, and correctly reflected in a communiqué from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture in Victoria, I rest my case.