The Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture, Alain St.Ange, has again been described as the man who has turned around tourism on the islands and that also, thanks to his campaign to increase visibility of the destination in the world press, the latter is today enjoying a success story.
Ile en Ile Mag magazine of Mauritius has recently carried out an exclusive interview with the minister, entitled “Seychelles Tourism – A Success Story,” with an introduction which tells of the Seychelles’ tourism remarkable progress in the last few years.
“When one says Seychelles, one can immediately start dreaming. You think of the beaches, the sun and the holidays…” says the article, adding that the visitor figures to the islands have increased steadily over the last few years even when the rest of the world was in economic turmoil.
Minister St.Ange starts the interview by describing the tourism climate in Seychelles, citing that it is living a true success and achieving its objectives at all levels. He says at the time of the interview (in May) that all the hotels were enjoying a good occupancy level, and that Seychelles has managed to maintain its reputation as a “quality” getaway and not as a mass tourism destination.
A total 230,272 tourists traveled to Seychelles in 2013, representing a 10.7% increase on the previous year.
“I am very happy, and I congratulate the Seychelles Tourism Board for its continued efforts to market and sell the destination all over the world. But they are not alone; we also have the government and private sector, all coming together to find the right strategies for this very important industry,” Minister St.Ange says.
He is then asked about the new regulations being implemented to encourage more “home grown” establishments. He says that two-and-a-half years ago, Seychelles’ President James Michel laid out a new road map for tourism, and his wish was to see more Seychellois take ownership of the tourism industry. Minister St.Ange stresses that it was never the government’s intention to have an economy of only big businesses.
“It is important for everyone to feel part of this development and this important industry. That’s why we have ensured that proper regulations and facilities are in place to encourage the opening of smaller establishments such as guest-houses, self-caterings, and smaller hotels,” he said.
He adds that over 200 small establishments have been registered recently, and this is the result of “the Seychellois people wanting to claim back their industry.”
When asked about the future of Seychelles tourism in the next few years, Minister St.Ange says that the country has a Tourism Master Plan which is now in its second year. The aim, he explains, was to assess where the country is going with its tourism industry and how it wants it to contribute to the economy.
“The President gave me a mission, to go out there and speak to the tourism trade and all other services that gain their businesses and livelihood through tourism (hotels, restaurants, car rentals, airlines, etc. and also farmers, fishermen, artists) to discuss their aspirations and what they want to see and achieve,” he explains.
“It is a mutual agreement amongst all groups that we don’t want mass tourism and no charters, because our people will not benefit from it. We all want to keep the beautiful image of our destination and everything else that conjures the image of ‘Seychelles’ in someone’s mind,” he adds.
Minister St.Ange says that tourism will remain the pillar of the Seychelles economy and that the country needs to continuously prepare human resources to sustain the growth. A new hotel school will open at the end of the year.
“It is important for the colors of Seychelles to be visible in all our hotels,” says the minister.
He also stresses that the country needs to have new hotel developments to keep up with the growth of the industry. Tourism on the islands helps to finance other sectors such as social services, health, and education, and thus attention must be given to that industry so that the whole nation can benefit.
“But this development to bring tourism to new heights must take place in phases, we need to grow the industry, but we must do it well. This year we will see the opening of two hotels and next year another two.
“But we have to be careful. We don’t want to open new hotels without the guarantee that we have airline seats availability to Seychelles. This is very important, and as Minister for Tourism, I am well aware of that. We need to have other facilities in place as well to sustain the growth such as adequate electricity and water. We need to plan ahead and calculate well. The bottom line is that we need the country and the people to benefit,” says Minister St.Ange.
The Minister also says that he has the Seychellois culture at heart, and he wants both culture and tourism to complement each other. By putting the local culture at the forefront, he stresses, the country is also putting its people at the forefront.
“Culture is at the center of our development and our communication. This is why we have the carnival, the Creole festival, and other such cultural events. Our culture is at the center of our tourism promotion, and this is what our visitors look for. We are proud of what we are and what we have,” he concludes.
Seychelles is a founding member of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP).