TOURISM STAKEHOLDER QUESTION INTENT BY SECTIONS OF MEDIA
Several leading tourism stakeholders have over the past days written, questioning the real intent by sections of the Seychelles media to front page, ahead and during one of the archipelago’s main tourism events, Subios – the Festival of the Sea of allegedly having pirates off Bird Island or publishing crime statistics.
While in agreement over the role of the media and the freedom of the press as enshrined in the Seychelles Constitution, there was clear exasperation among the individuals who felt it necessary to share their concerns, suggesting ulterior motives and one going as far as accusing the publication in question of attempting to sabotage the positive publicity SUBIOS was otherwise generating for the country.
‘I think we in Seychelles are doing more than most others in the fight against what you call ocean terrorists. We call them pirates but I think we can agree on both definitions. Suggesting that pirates are threatening our sovereign waters again and mentioning in the same article Bird Island, can have a profound effect on tourism arrivals and being seen as a safe destination. It was for sure insensitive to put this on the front page as visitors started to stream to Seychelles for the Festival of the Sea, and at worst calculated to cause our sector damage. The Seychelles government operates flights around the clock, supported by UAV’s, to monitor our sea lanes and our coast guard is on full alert at all times. We got more ships out than ever before and work hand in hand with our partners and friends. What will a cruise line executive think when he gets such headlines on his desk, and from within the Seychelles. Will he bring his cruise ship or wait another year before he decides to let his ship come to Victoria? And it is the same with the crime statistics. We know we have work to do and our association is meeting with government and police officials all the time about it. I am not saying that some of the statistics are not true, but to splash them as a headline as SUBIOS is reaching its climax? Again, I question the timing and the true intent behind it. You have been here many times, you have travelled across the islands, used busses and public transport. You explored the budget market with guest houses and B&B’s outside the main resorts, did you encounter insecurity? I think it is bad to play politics with such issues and risking the goose which lays our golden eggs. Please put this right because I know how many agree with me and how many read your articles’.
And true enough has the naval coalition of late spoken of a significant reduction of pirate activities now that the safe havens of the pirates along the Somalia coast are progressively being captured by UNISOM forces, with the fall last month of Kismayu being the greatest victory so far to keep pirates from leaving shore to hunt for ships on the open sea. While the change of weather would in past years have encouraged more attacks, the coalition naval forces are confident that this year the pirate activity will be much curtailed and reduce further, as the new government in Mogadishu is restoring law and order and controlling more and more of the country again.
A source based in Nairobi and close to the ‘action’ said on condition of anonymity for not being an official spokesperson: ‘The weather is now calming down and our vigilance will remain high. The success on land to capture ports and harbours in the past used by pirates is a big help already but those who still sail from parts of Somalia not yet fully under government control, those our patrols on the surface and from the air will deal with. Peace is returning to Somalia now and this menace will be dealt with by land based security forces very soon’.
With better prospects, and while vigilance and continued surveillance and monitoring will be absolutely necessary, there should be definitely less concern about pirates operating in Seychelles waters or reaching anywhere near the main islands, contrary to what has been suggested. Time then to go and visit the Seychelles, truly Another World.