EMIRATES SEEKS CLOSER TIES WITH SEYCHELLES THROUGH NEW RESORT PROJECT
The top leadership of Emirates, led by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Vice President of Dubai and Chairman and CEO of the Emirates Group and accompanied, among others by Mr. Tim Clark, President of Emirates and Mr. Marc Bennet, VP in charge of Emirates’ leisure division, is currently on the island of Mahe on a high profile working visit to meet Seychelles government officials and discuss their plans for a new resort complex. It is expected that they will also meet with President James Alix Michel and hold talk on matters of mutual interest and how to further increase economic and political cooperation.
The airline had in 2006 approached the Seychelles government with a proposal to build, what would have been the island’s largest resort complex, comprising 453 villas and luxury suites, a marina and water bungalows extending into the ocean. The outbreak of the global economic crisis however during late 2007 and lasting into 2009 saw the project put on halt for the time being, before the economic recovery and the rising demand for holidays in the Seychelles allowed for the project to be revived. Following intense discussions between the two parties, Emirates has now presented a revised concept of only 183 villas and suites, shelving plans to build water bungalows at the proposed site at Cap Ternay.
The two parties agreed, after meeting with four government ministers (Minister Pierre Laporte, Finance, Trade & Investment, Rolph Payet, Environment & Energy, Christian Lionnet, Land Use & Habitat and Alain St.Ange Tourism & Culture) and their key staff, that all relevant existing guidelines for the development of a new resort will be followed to the letter, and that, after the proposal has received approval by the cabinet, expected in due course, will be subject to the required assessment processes including an EIA to ensure compliance with laws and regulations.
Sections of the Seychelles media had in recent weeks waged a campaign to stop all new developments on the archipelago, which would effectively also halt any future expansion of the tourism industry across the islands, without however acknowledging the crucial importance of new direct foreign investments in the sector, the added job creation – where in particular the efforts of the Seychelles Tourism Academy are exemplary to provide a skilled local workforce for hotels and resorts – and the additional foreign exchange earnings going along with new resorts.
The same sources have in the past also been part to accusing the island’s government of ‘greenwashing’ their credentials, allegations swiftly and comprehensively rejected by the relevant government ministries and agencies at the time and reported here in detail including an interview with Minister St. Ange.
‘This is a game of politics, nothing else. The people of the Seychelles know how important tourism is for our economy. Our young people need employment opportunities. Those who alleged that all jobs in new resorts will be taken by foreigners are not telling the truth. STA has been intensifying training of Seychellois to start a career in the hospitality industry. We are expanding STA to turn it into a world class training institution with capacity to train twice as many people compared to now. The resorts are not just cooperating but have fully embraced the concept of training up more of our own people to take over positions in their hotels. We are even creating managerial cadres through our cooperation with the Shannon College and other key institutions of higher learning abroad. STA has signed agreements with hotel schools in Shanghai, Muscat and Malta. Yes, there will eventually be a limit for more developments, but not just yet. New resorts means more jobs for our people, more opportunities to even start new businesses related to tourism. Those opposed have not said a word where they would find jobs for young Seychellois if not in the tourism sector. Seychelles has weathered the global economic crisis of 2008 and the Eurozone crisis much better than many other countries. This is a result of a concerted effort to improve the business climate and by finding new markets for our resorts. Success is evident here and while there are challenges, those are met head on. I think we are all aware that environmental protection is the key for our success as a tourism destination. Let me give you an example. When the Constance Ephelia was built, the same people cried that the mangrove forest would be destroyed by the project. You have been there several times and seen that instead, the mangrove forests have increased in size because now they get active protection from staff of the resort. More mangroves have been planted and this is continuing. It shows that it is possible to find a balance between environment and resorts. It is costly but this is factored into our hotel tariffs. There are always new challenges arising but I think we have the mechanism in the Seychelles to solve such issues. Any new resort, this one at Cap Ternay and the other one at Police Bay, or those on Praslin or other islands, will always be subject to a very stringent process of EIA. We have learned from past shortcomings and will continue to learn as we go along. Trying to stop developments without answering where the bread and butter for our people should then come from is futile’ wrote a regular source in a senior position in the tourism industry, requesting anonymity however for not wanting to be drawn into the current debate in sections of the Seychelles media.
Emirates, Dubai’s award winning airline, currently connects the Seychelles archipelago 12 times a week with the rest of the world and has become the leading foreign airline flying to Mahe. It is expected that eventually Emirates will come twice a day to Mahe, when demand justifies adding more frequencies. Cooperation between the Seychelles Tourism Board and Emirates has for long been intense and the two partners have forged a close union which saw both sides benefit from the global appeal the airline and the destination Seychelles enjoy. Visit www.seychelles.travel for more information about the destination and www.emirates.com for details on flights from an airport near you to Mahe.