SHTA Chairman speaks out about misgivings of the Seychelles tourism industry

I am re-posting this press release, with particular reference to the comments made by Mr. D’Offay on the issue of direct flights between Paris and Mahe, NOT via Abu Dhabi, and the need to restore Mahe as the Air Seychelles hub and not have it shifted to Abu Dhabi. Questions in fact I asked several weeks ago when discussing why the flights from Hong Kong by Air Seychelles should not be direct but instead route via Abu Dhabi, or raising the issue of the extraordinary level of handling charges at the International Airport in Mahe which has driven airlines away. SHTA raises the issue of Turkish Airlines wishing to fly to Mahe but mentions the lack of progress in signing a BASA, but surely the level of handling charges too here is of importance.
Will the interest of the Seychelles tourism industry carry the day when Air Seychelles makes decisions or is it the interest of partner Etihad which comes first? As I said before, their financial involvement in Air Seychelles was warmly welcomed but holding the tourism industry at ransom was surely not part of the deal?
I have always reflected the mood and opinions of tourism stakeholders from the archipelago, not always to the liking of the powers that be and being a friend of Seychelles does include talking rain as well as sunshine or else my credibility would be gone in a flash.

The article I referred to, published after leaving the Seychelles when last visiting, was harshly criticized at the time by a small but powerful section of individuals with clearly vested interests and yet here the SHTA Chairman raises several of the same points as in a mirror image. Will he get shot down in flames too or will his opinion be taken on board as it should be by some of those he named?

Enjoy the read, make up your own mind who is right or who is wrong and who can be trusted and who not.

The Editorial of the monthly publication by the Seychelles Tourism Industry speaks up on the way forward as seen by the island’s private sector, the motor behind the economy of the Seychelles.

In his Editorial in the latest issue of the industry’s publication, Louis D’Offay the Chairman of the industry’s association says:

Welcome to yet another issue of the Seychelles Tourism Industry Newsletter!

We are coming out with this issue as our industry looks sadly at a situation where a lack of concerted effort is so apparent. We were all informed that Turkish Airlines intended to start their Seychelles flights at the same time as they were launching their operations into the Maldives. Why are we still dragging our feet and letting the other tourism destinations of our region get the better of us?

Turkish Airlines are now firmly established with their Maldives schedule and we understand that they are set to increase their frequencies. Their arrival has brought a review in applicable tour operator fares to Maldives.

A win win situation for Maldives. But the question we are all asking is why is it taking so long to develop a Bilateral Agreement with Turkey and thereby giving them the necessary landing rights for an immediate start? Who is punishing Seychelles and the Tourism Industry?

Paris and the need for a direct flight will continue to be a stumbling block between the whole tourism trade and the Minister responsible for Transport.

Times are not easy and as we follow the news of codeshare between Air France and Etihad we fail to understand why Air Seychelles is not thinking of Seychelles just for once. Abu Dhabi will remain the Hub for Etihad, but please make Seychelles the base for Air Seychelles. Today we could be benefiting from that Air France/Etihad cooperation because that cooperation could channel our Air Seychelles passengers into Paris to board a direct nonstop flight to Seychelles. Four flights to South Africa pushed the industry at large to run to push the South African market and to promote twin center in the Americas, especially in Brazil and Argentina. Even Air Seychelles supported the Tourism Board’s David Germain in his endeavours to promote Seychelles. Safari in South Africa and beach in Seychelles, two countries in one holiday was taking off, but now S.A. Tour Operators are telling us that the four flights announcement was but an industry’s invention.

The country is losing face. Brazil Operators have programmed Seychelles, our local DMCs have all gone to Brazil and Argentina at their own cost to be ready when the four flights kick in. We feel our job is done, but where are the flights? Minister Morgan is the Chairman of the Air Seychelles Board of Directors and the Seychelles Government nominees on that Board are in majority numbers and yet they are failing Seychelles. This is sad and Hotels, Guest Houses, Hotel Staff, Tourism Academy Students, yes the Trade in general should take note that the tourism industry is being let down.

The Boat Operators meeting on Praslin raised many shortfalls by two Ministries. Poor state of roads, unlicensed boat operators, jetty management on Praslin & La Digue, thefts on Praslin right in front of the Police Station anchor point, unfortunate state of Curieuse island and its lunch serving area and corruption with Marine Park entrance fees where illegal boat operators enjoy special arrangements. The Ministry of Tourism has also been asked to relook at operating modes between big consortiums and the small individual operators and to work with the Transport Minister to get an Inflight Magazine in the Domestic Air Seychelles flights and Tourism Activity Boards at Domestic Terminals on Mahe & Praslin and Ferry Terminals on Mahe, Praslin and La Digue to promote licensed tourism operators on Praslin, La Digue and Mahe. It was noted by all the boat operators present that it was disappointing that only one Minister turned up for that Praslin meeting with the little people of Praslin.

Where have we reached in our plight to save Praslin & La Digue Tourism? We all know that the cost for visitors on our Domestic Air Seychelles and on the Ferry is today not helping, but it is more a hindrance. The difference in applicable rates and the rate for the 15minutes flight remains remedy against a visit to Praslin at the detriment of Praslin and La Digue. The Tourism Board needs to advertise the schooner rides and state their rates.

Going back in time seems the only recourse to consolidate our industry.

But all is not bad. Congratulations to Michel Gardette and his Team at Fond Ferdinand. Your new Nature Reserve was needed and everyone in the Industry will support and promote your spectacular Coco de Mer park. With your stated applicable entrance fee of Rupees 50 until end December and then Rupees 100 from January is encouraging and it tells us that you have heard our plea to help keep Seychelles more competitive. Such new natural attractions will also help increase the yield of our country from its tourism industry. The more attractions and activities we have for our visitors to spend their holiday budget on, the better our country will be.

Planning Authority and the Tourism Industry are heading in different directions. We hear of projects but we are still not consulted. Today we see hotels being built on top of hotels to make our very own Costa del Sol style of environment. No respect for the country’s environment is today so apparent in so many new hotel and self- catering establishments. Tiled walls on the road cannot suit the charm and authenticity of La Digue for example.

Foot print of new establishments is a new vocabulary, but not applicable to everyone. Unfortunately we see a destruction of what Seychelles stands for, taking place under our very own eyes on a daily basis. We pray that the practice that enabled the Cerf Island Jetty to be constructed is not reappearing again.

Enjoy the read of your industry’s newsletter. Forward it on to friends, family and associates.

On behalf of the SHTA, I will also take this opportunity to wish you all a safe and festive Christmas!!

I thank you.

Louis D’Offay