Back home at my own shores now with material accumulated from eight days in the Seychelles which should provide for weeks of articles, I want to kick off the series with a reflection on Alain St. Ange’s opening address a week ago at the Stade Popilar in Victoria, when the opening gala of the 2015 Seychelles Carnival took place.
Since his ‘arrival’ on the public sector tourism scene in 2008, when the private sector ‘attached’ him as Director of Tourism Marketing into a struggling tourism board to rescue the sector from disaster after the 2007/8 world financial and economic crisis, nothing was ever the same again when it comes to tourism in the Seychelles.
Back then he kicked the trend in the teeth and, but for a few hundred, accomplished the impossible, halting the slide and keeping visitor numbers, albeit at the cost of deep rebates, at the same level.
From there it was up up and up some more year after year as new visitor arrival records were established and the archipelago embarked on a marketing juggernaut which saw the global spotlight firmly trained on the destination.
His rise to CEO was logical, considering the restructuring the tourism board had undergone and his appointment in 2012 as Minister for Tourism and Culture was a very smart move by President Michel, who clearly saw in St. Ange the saviour tourism in the country needed when challenge after challenge was thrown at it.
The fallout of piracy was overcome, cruise ships are making their way back to Victoria and the Vanilla Island Organisation, another brainchild of St. Ange, is now finally flourishing after the change of government in Mauritius and the waning influence of naysayer Karl Mootoosamy.
But it is arguably the Seychelles’ Carnival which has put the archipelago on the map like few other events. Here, little Seychelles has brought the big league of carnivalistas from Brazil, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia into the smallest capital of the world to strut their stuff for visitors and locals alike. In a short space of just five years has this festival risen into the top five of carnival events and St. Ange and his team of utterly dedicated professionals at STB and other agencies under his ministry, have performed the near impossible.
Read his speech to know about his mindset … he may be a dreamer, but a very successful one he is … and as he tongue in cheek added, he is not the only one!
"Five years ago we had a dream – a dream to create a cultural event that would invite the world to join together in a spirit of dialogue, in a spirit of peace and in a spirit of total harmony, and this immaterial of your religious affiliation, the color of your skin and of your political belief.
Last year at the official opening of the carnival I stood before you, and as I used the words of John Lennon, I said "You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one".
Today I say look at what we can do when we work as one, look at the carnival a small country like Seychelles can stage for the world at large. We had a dream and as the popular Ghana song says "If you dream, dream big, as big as the ocean"- and yes we did dream big for Seychelles.
With the needed tenacity and with determination our dream, and this is for each and everyone of us, our dream can become a reality. As I stand here tonight to open the 5th edition of our carnival I say we have but one Seychelles, and we are but one people. Let us all look at the past and learn from that past as we embrace peace in the unity we have during this time of carnival.
On behalf of Seychelles and of our co-host La Reunion, on behalf of President James Michel and on behalf of each and every Seychellois, Let President Didier Robert and myself welcome you, Your Royal Majesty Otumfuo, the King of the Ashanti from Ghana, let us welcome your highness Princess Sikhanyiso of the Kingdom of Swaziland, let us welcome our guest of Honour Mr Xavier-Luc Duval, the Deputy Prime Minister of Mauritius, who will be the next President of our Indian Ocean Vanilla islands, and also let us welcome all Ministers who have flown in from far and wide to showcase their culture to the world and in so doing increase the visibility of their respective countries.
Welcome also to all the foreign delegations joining us again this year. Your support is appreciated, feel at home and join us in working together to make the dream we all have to make the world a better place.
The carnival of carnivals we are staging together is spreading the call for peace through culture. Thank you for being here in Seychelles, and we wish you all a great three days of fun through the explosion of color and through the display of culture in this event called the melting pot of cultures.
Ladies and Gentlemen, your presence today here in the Seychelles demonstrates your faith in the consolidation of your culture. You are proud to float your flag in this cultural event which will help to strengthen your tourism industry through the visibility that the gathered press will bring. Using culture to strengthen your tourism and to enhance your culture through the tourism is going along the same path like we have done so successfully in Seychelles, and which today bears fruits of real success
Members of the press, thank you for being present. You are our Ambassadors to spread the news of our dream, the dream to create a better world where peace and harmony reigns and where we all live as brothers
Ladies and gentlemen, people of Seychelles.
We had a dream, we had worked together to achieve this dream. We wanted to create an event which promotes peace, unity and togetherness. Yes, the Seychelles Carnival has succeeded and we can proudly say that the carnival has managed to bring different nations and different people together and in a spirit of total harmony, and this regardless of your religious affiliation, the color of your skin and of your political belief.
Let us continue to dream together to see our Seychelles become the place were unity reigns. One people we are and one nation we have. The tourism industry remains an industry which unites the people and our cultural events consolidate this unity. The achievements of the tourism industry is the result of the joint government-private sector partnership.
Let us nurture this national unity we have and let us show our love for Seychelles !
With these word I have the pleasure and honor to say "LET THE CARNIVAL BEGIN".