A final word from my friend Alain St. Ange, Minister for Tourism and Culture in the Seychelles, who reflects on 2013 as he
looks ahead to the New Year 2014.
Tourism in Seychelles an overview as the end of the year approaches – Minister St.Ange speaks
As 2013 winds to a close, Seychelles as a whole has an opportunity to look back over yet another good year for tourism.
At home, we continue to conduct a significant reorganization of how the tourism infrastructure works and by the time that the Tourism Board moves to its new offices in Victoria sometime during the first quarter of the year, we shall be looking at operations more focused on marketing and filling the knowledge gap about the islands as a tourism destination. This will be greatly aided by a revamped suite of collaterals: a new tourism website and corporate site; brand new destination video and supporting niche market videos and viral films and a refreshed collection of tourism brochures.
Tourist numbers continue to rise and official tourism arrival statistics issued by the National Bureau of Statistics have stated that by the end of November 2013, 3964 tourists arrived in Seychelles, marking the figure at 206,886 visitors for the year up to November. These figures show a 12% increase from the 185,094 record of visitors in 2012.
Our strategy of concentrating increased efforts in the emerging markets in response to the economic recession that continues to hang over our traditional European markets is paying off with China recording a respective 75% increase above 2012. Russia, Germany, and France have helped to increase the number of Seychelles’ visitor arrivals throughout the year with an increased figure of 40% in total. The Tourism Board moved to diversify, but at the same time maintained the visibility of the islands in our main traditional markets in Europe, especially in the markets where we have invested so much for so many years and the market that today knows us well and understands us.
Furthermore, visitors from America have increased by 8% followed by a 41% increase of visitors from Oceania. Needless to say, the African market follows suit with an increase of 8% along with a 10% increase in South African visitors. Not only have the visitor numbers increased across the markets, but the Seychelles Tourism Board is preparing for a strengthened presence in such new emerging markets as India, Scandinavia and South Korea to name a few.
We see this as a vindication of our policies and strategies aimed at diversifying the sources of our tourist arrivals which is paying handsome dividends.
Air access to Seychelles continues to evolve and new airline partners such as Mihin Lanka are strengthening our ties with the east while the confirmed return of Air Austral starting the 23rd June 2014 will bring back, especially for our home grown smaller establishments, their market lost since the departure of non stop direct flights from La Reunion. We are, and will remain a mid ocean island destination and will have to continue to work closely with all our airline partners in order to offer the most appropriate routes at the most advantageous prices to our potential visitors.
As the islands prepare for the 4th edition of the Carnaval International de Victoria in April 2014, Seychelles continues to refine its raft of international events that includes the Eco-Friendly Marathon, Miss Seychelles Beauty Pageant, LaFet La Digue, the Tourism Ball, the Festival Kreol, the FetAfrik, SUBIOS, the Seychelles Festival of the Sea, La Francophonie Celebrations and a French Day, the Commonwealth Celebrations and a British Day, the Seychelles-India Day, the end of year Christmas with the Stars musical show and now in January the Seychelles-China Day as well as a proposed Praslin Day from 2014 to create added attractions for tourists to enjoy. We have moved from just selling ourselves as only a sun, sea and sand holiday destination even though we probably have the best in this category of holiday options, but many many destinations are also pitching these same selling points. We moved, when we launched the Seychelles Brand of Tourism to make our unique culture, and in so doing our people, the base of our unique selling points. Our culture has our own DNA and our people is Seychelles and they have Seychelles at heart.
Seychelles tourism continues to enjoy fruitful relationships and partnerships with other western Indian Ocean nations such as La Reunion, not only in co-hosting the carnival but also looking at longer term prospects for regional tourism such as the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands and the East3Route tourism initiative with partners, Swaziland, Mozambique and Kwazulu Natal of South Africa.
Together with the private sector we have worked as a team and we have delivered for Seychelles. We now need to further consolidate on our achievements. One major challenge we all still have to work together to overcome is the yield received by the country from tourism, the industry that remains the pillar of the Seychelles economy. Though the hotel charges remains very much a private sector controlled environment and that those who are reinvesting in their properties and who are upgrading their properties will be able to justify rate increases, the country needs to move to encourage new activities and facilities that can help generate more income for the country. Such facilities can include a bird park, an aquarium, and underwater restaurant, floating restaurants and more. Hotels are charging what they feel they can based on the competition they face, not in Seychelles only, but also in competing destinations. This is why we need to be innovative as a country in order to increase our tourism yield.
The Tourism Board under the direction of Sherin Renaud and ably assisted by Nathalie Didon have received the big lines to follow from the annual November Marketing Meeting where the private sector tourism trade joins the Government to analyse our performance and discuss together the future. The Tourism Board has now also welcomed Rosemarie Hoareau, the Private Sector nominated Director of Marketing, whose responsibility it is for continuously liaising with the industry on plans, actions and on the way forward. One such move will be the appointment of a Senior Marketing Executive to help the small Seychellois Hotel Owners with their marketing and sales actions to ensure they are better able to face the increased competition of the tourism world. The Tourism Board will continue to make noise in the four corners of the world to ensure Seychelles remains visible and relevant as a tourism destination. Seychelles needs to ensure that what we say we are in our marketing and sales initiatives we deliver 365 days of the years for all our visitors. Everyone must take their responsibility to ensure we remain the dream holiday destination.
Anne Lafortune, the PS for Tourism is now finalising details to absorb within the Ministry all policy and administrative departments previously attached to the Tourism Board. These will also include the inspectorates for standards and licensing.
Last but not least are the achievements of the Seychelles Tourism Academy, which is currently in the process of being redeveloped with plans to re-open early in 2014. The Seychelles Tourism Academy still holds regional and international partners, especially Shannon College in Ireland, but in a bid to ensure a competent and professional tourism workforce for Seychelles there have also been recent signed agreements with Shanghai and Hebei Province to ensure that it continues to provide high standards of training for students wishing to work in Seychelles’ tourism industry.
As we now ready ourselves to meet the challenges of 2014, we must not rest on our laurels but continue to ensure that our tourism products are of the highest standard and also affordable. Today’s international tourism arena is highly competitive and we must do all in our power to make sure that the attributes we are marketing match their descriptions in our brochures and films; that our environment remains clean and appealing; that our Creole charm lives up to its name and that the prices we charge do not turn people away because these are the pillars upon which our tourism industry is built and our future prosperity depends.
"We managed the tourism industry with passion. The style of leadership we believe in showed depth, uniqueness and an island style for Seychelles" Minister St.Ange said in reply to a question by a foreign press on the state of Seychelles tourism.