AIR SEYCHELLES THE DOWNSIDE OF CLOSING EUROPEAN ROUTES SO SOON
Still in the holiday mood and yet to celebrate the best ever annual arrivals record to the Seychelles come midnight on the 31st of December this year, the more sober of the archipelagos tourism stakeholders are nevertheless beginning to see the impact of Air Seychelles decision to prematurely end their remaining flights from Paris to Mahe already on the 10th of January. Initially to last till the end of March, able to capture the Easter season, the route closure has thrown the plans of many individual travelers to come to the Seychelles in early 2012 into disarray. Not everyone is quite aware of what is going to happen when Air Seychelles operates the last flight from Paris to Mahe. Some people are worried how they will get back home if they fly out in the first week of January and have asked what the arrangements are and which airline will uplift them home, if it costs them more money or if their expected fare for a return trip will be honoured. Tour operators working with Air Seychelles, or with Air France for that matter with which HM pooled its operation on a code share basis, have reportedly been told of other arrangements as Etihad appears to be willing to absorb such traffic. The same source then went on to lament: still not everyone wants to fly on a Gulf airline, after all they chose initially to fly with Air Seychelles for a reason. But the question of transferring loyalties of passengers and business partners is only one piece of the picture. We are even more concerned about Air Seychelles closing shop for the loss of marketing impact. Our national airline was always present at trade shows, supported STBs efforts in many ways and spent a lot of money marketing their flights, and at the same time marketing holidays to the Seychelles of course. Will the Gulf airlines step in with the same attitude, the same commitment and the same resources to continue advertising us here when they connect to so many destinations from Paris via their hubs? Air Seychelles exclusively marketed our islands, but what about others? Will government give STB more funds to step into the gap now left by Air Seychelles?
True enough is the present outlook for the January to March period somewhat uncertain, but it can be expected that the Seychelles Tourism Board will pull out all stops to make sure promotions and marketing not just continues but is stepped up to bridge the time gap between the 10th of January, when Air Seychelles will operate their last flight from Paris and until the end of March, when Air Austral is expected to commence twice a week flights from the French capital via Mahe to their final destination La Reunion. Those however are much fewer than the previous HM flights, leaving doubts just how successful that operation can be in the end with the limited choices of days of travel and in the face of the Gulf carriers offering daily departures.
A regular source from within STB had this to add on condition of not being named: We are going to work extra hard on the European markets affected by the closure of Air Seychelles routes to Paris, London, Milan and Rome. There we will work hand in hand with Etihad, Qatar and Emirates to promote their flights to our islands. We are somehow confident that the travel agents will accept what has happened and transfer their business to the Seychelles to those airlines. We have very good relations with all three of them and they have assured us officially that they will also go out of their way to accommodate traffic at very competitive fares. By Easter 2012 Air Austral is supposed to bring two nonstop flights a week adding more seats again. We are all very sad about what is happening at Air Seychelles because we worked as partners for so many years. But that decision is taken and we need to now look ahead and try and make 2012 another record year and not be distracted by the situation with our national airline. There may be disagreements over methods and different views how to achieve that goal but we are all in the end working together to make a success for tourism in Seychelles. We do not believe that we will see a big setback and whenever we see variances in the arrival patterns, we will immediately react. We have tourism ambassadors in all key market places to give us market information and we know we can count on our friends in the media to help, so overall we are confident.
Other sources on the island do not appear to entirely share such confidence, pointing at other factors which affect their business and their bottom lines, like rising electricity tariffs, the imminent increase in VAT by 3 percent and broadly rising prices as a result of higher fuel and delivery costs of landed goods. One thing though everyone shares on the Seychelles, which is the passion for their country regardless of any difference in opinion how best to overcome the challenges of the Air Seychelles restructuring.
We will step up our Affordable Seychelles programmes on the African mainland and overseas and at the same time also push the top end market message of Seychelles, Another World so that we can capture difference market niches and consumer brackets. The second edition of the Carnaval International de Victoria is gathering momentum too and there Emirates is our main partner and festival airline said yet another source close to STB, also oozing confidence that nothing at all is lost and much in fact to be gained in 2012. For now, as 2011, the Seychelles tourism industrys best year ever, is drawing to a close, it is BEST WISHES FOR A HAPPY AND SUCCESSFUL YEAR 2012 to everyone on the archipelago from this devoted and dedicated Friend of Seychelles Press.