Tourism in Seychelles – Minister meets his PS and Tourism Board CEO to analyse mid-year tourism marketing meeting
Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture met with Sherin Naiken the CEO of the Tourism Board, Anne Lafortune, the PS for Tourism and Benjamine Rose, the PS for Culture to analyse the feedback from the 2014 edition of the annual mid-year marketing meeting that was held last Wednesday at the SAVOY Resort on Beau Vallon Beach.
The Minister and his three most senior officials went over the comments aired by the Private Sector partners following the different presentations delivered by the Tourism Board’s Managers coming from their different offices in the four corners of the world.
“We heard the comments from our private sector trade partners. With the CEO of the Tourism Board and with my two PSs we went over the comments aired and recommendations tabled. We are indeed happy that this year’s midyear marketing meeting was well received and seen as a real success. We are conscious of the challenges ahead and we are satisfied that the re-tweaking of our marketing strategy in place will bring a new focus in the market place” the Minister said after meeting with his senior officials.
The encouraging and positive statements made by Members of the private sector trade were reflected upon:
Freddy Karkaria,the Chairman of the Tourism Industry’s Association said:
My impression was very positive: The Marketing Review was well prepared and delivered. At the last one in December 2013, I felt a change as there was opportunity for some dialogue. This mid-year review was more effective and worthwhile for a number of reasons: the large majority of presentations were very good in terms of substance and relevancy and they also tried to tackle the issues the industry faces to turn the situation around; the decision by Rose-Marie Hoareau to allow Q &A after each presentation allowed participants to respond while the information and data were fresh in our minds; there was clearly a want for constructive dialogue and ideas. Discussions were convivial and most importantly, participants from the trade felt they were heard, not simply listened to; lastly, thank you for sharing the presentations with us all.
On behalf of the SHTA, thank you for a well-planned Review meeting and congratulations to your team
Marco Francis, the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industries said that he is encouraged to see the extreme amount of work that goes into the marketing of Seychelles . “It is the first time that I attend such a meeting and I have to say I am very pleased to see all the hard work of the Seychelles Tourism Board to consolidate our tourism industry. I have to commend them for the work they are doing with regards to e-marketing. The presentations by the various regional managers were very enlightening and I now have a new appreciation for the work they are doing. However, as another side to the same coin, my experience also informed me of the gravity of the challenges that we face today to grow our tourism figures. These threats to the success of our tourism industry are very real and I would like to call on every partner including all my members to contribute their share so that we can all participate in the success.”
Christopher Gill of Iles des Palmes on Praslin acknowledged the fact that today Seychelles was more visible as he congratulated Minister St.Ange for his efforts.
“The mid-Year Seychelles Tourism Review highlighted many key points and challenges of the Seychelles Tourism Board. While we are struggling to find tourists to come to Seychelles, because of Europe ‘ s lingering recession, there have been many successes by the STB which indicate a change in status quo in the approach of the STB and we see the bottom line improving because of the team effort . Most prominent has been STB’s hugely successful e-marketing effort on Facebook as a platform registering over 50,0000 likes in a few months, and the use of e-turbo news as a tourism portal, to keep Seychelles highly visible. This has resulted in very high traffic form Seychelles on Tripadvisor, reflecting an upscale demand for Seychelles. Unfortunately, demand has not turned into arrivals, due to lack of effective connectivity – an indispensable link in the chain of success for long haul destinations as Seychelles.
It Is noteworthy that only two years ago, the China market had hardly heard of Seychelles. Today, in a survey, they rank Seychelles as the No. 3 place to visit in the world. At the same time, they say they need direct flights from China to Seychelles to realize this dream because they can only holiday on average for 8 days at a time. They also ask that more luxury goods are available to purchase, which is a huge potential economy that we must consider if we expect to remain viable as a destination” Mr Gill said.
When he had addressed the opening ceremony of the 2014 edition of the annual mid-year marketing meeting at the Savoy Resort on Beau Vallon Beach Minister Alain St.Ange said: “Firstly, let me congratulate Sherin Naiken and her team at the Tourism Board for again remaining faithful to our policy of dialogue, and in so doing calling this mid-year tourism marketing review for Seychelles. Our continued success is assured through the spirit of public private sector partnership introduced a couple of years ago. This spirit of togetherness is needed, and this spirit of togetherness not only makes us work together but also brings about the joint responsibility for successes and for challenges that present themselves. As a sign of the private sector partnership, we have answered positively to two major requests from the Tourism Trade.
Firstly we appointed your nominated person, Rosemarie Hoareau to the position of Director of Marketing at the Tourism Board. This gives you all, not only the say in the marketing drive of Seychelles, but it remains one of yours who is responsible for the marketing of Seychelles.
Secondly we accepted your request to see the first ever inter-ministerial meeting called. This has now been done and the fist such meeting proved beyond any doubt to be a positive step forward for Seychelles. Thank you to the you all for having made the call for such a meeting that should prove to be a catalyst for working together on a national front.
Today the country as a whole is conscious that everyone has a role to play to help address the challenges facing the Seychelles tourism industry. This is because the first inter-ministerial tourism meeting chaired by Vice President Danny Faure that was held last week is a milestone meeting where four Ministers and most Principal Secretaries and Director Generals of the Civil Service joined the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association and the island’s Chamber of Commerce and Industries to discuss challenges being faced by the Seychelles Tourism Industry.
I have said it before, and I will say it again: “Seychelles has taken a big leap forward through this inter-ministerial meeting where everything deemed to be a challenge to the island’s tourism industry is tabled and discussed in an open, pragmatic and cordial manner. Every Minister of the Government has accepted that they have a part to play to consolidate the tourism industry, and this first meeting chaired by Vice President Faure showed clearly from points raised that the private sector members needed re-assurance and actions from a cross section of Ministries and Government Departments.” this the Minister said as he wanted to reinforce the commitment of his Ministry and of the Government of Seychelles for the public / private sector partnership that today exists in Seychelles.
Minister St.Ange went on to touch on the need for the Tourism Board to relook at its target markets and to invest in those where returns will be seen as delivering important benefits for the islands. The Minister said: “Today we know, and Anne Lafortune, the PS for Tourism as well as Sherin Naiken, the CEO of the Tourism Board, all realise that the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and its Tourism Board now has to re-look at policy reorientation vis-a-vis the marketing of the destination and the operational framework for tourism businesses. The status quo is just not an option. We need to re-look at our strategies in France, Germany and the rest of Europe to ensure we are claiming a fairer share of that European Market. We need to re-channel funds to these key traditional markets that are producing, and that can produce even more for our destination. We need to re-visit our drive in China and Hong Kong to ensure we work even harder with the one objective to entice our direct non-stop flights and in so doing get the visitor arrival numbers we want and the visitor arrival numbers we need from this part of the world. We need to re-strategise in the Middle East and the whole GCC countries as more can be done in this part of the world from where we have more airline seats flying to Seychelles than from anywhere else. The time has arrived to split the two offices with specific responsibilities for marketing in the different countries that makeup this massive block which has so much potential. This will enable us through arrival cards at the airport to see where the growth is coming from and who is delivering on their mandate. We need to also be placing more emphasis on the fact that we are but four hours away from that part of the world and that they, like the rest of the world, can enter Seychelles with no visa requirements whatsoever. We need to examine at our presence in South Africa and indeed in Africa as a whole, and also quickly re-position ourselves in La Reunion now that we now enjoy non-stop, direct air access with this neighbouring island. South Africa has a lot more to offer and La Reunion needs to be nurtured otherwise the gains through a new direct air service will disappear again and this will hurt the small home grown establishments of Seychelles.
The time has come to move forward with our work in India ahead of Air Seychelles’ direct flight to that country which is imminent because, given links with India and Seychelles’ geographic location, it is a golden opportunity to capture the attention of potential Indian visitors and also airline passengers from India travelling through Seychelles to onward destinations in Africa” the Minister said.
The Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism also spoke about the need for the Seychelles Hospitality network to not only embrace the Creole Culture of Seychelles, but to also visitors to Seychelles see that the hotels of the islands are part of Seychelles by offeringwhat is truly Seychelles and by showcasing the island’s music and artisanal products. The Minister continued: “That said, we must also echo our sadness that as we speak of our culture being the base for our tourism industry, we are not seeing enough being done by the hospitality industry to embrace the Creole Culture of Seychelles. We have accepted, and the world at large is today speaking the same language: that without culture a tourism destination is on shaky grounds. For us it can be said that without our culture, our country’s tourism industry would be on an unstable foundation. The need to see more traditional Seychellois Creole Cuisine served to our visitors, and the need to entertain our visitors with more sounds of the Seychellois music is today more needed that ever before. The September Praslin Culinary and Arts Fiesta is aimed at refocusing our traditional cuisine as a unique selling point of our islands. We shall help those establishments who are not ashamed to serve Seychellois Creole cuisine in their establishments by ensuring their visibility as a property. We must find more ways to mainstream our culture into our tourism because all our research shows that today’s visitors are in search of touch points where they connect with our culture. It is not about sun, sea and sand anymore but rather about providing visitors with authentic experiences of our culture and way of life that they can take home as memories and talk to their friends about” Minister Alain St.Ange said.
The Minister then went on to address the need for greater collaboration with airline partners. On this subject Minister St.Ange said: “On a touchy subject we need to continue to work to achieve greater collaboration with Air Seychelles and other partner airlines to ensure that these partnerships are everything they should be, working hard to streamline and render more efficient common protocols where necessary so that Seychelles as a whole does not lose face or credibility with its customer base.
As a country we need greater airline commitment to providing the FOC tickets which are a crucial component for the work by the Tourism Board in getting Seychelles more known in the world of tourism and in helping trade partners sell Seychelles. Without this our industry will suffer. The National Airline of Seychelles has a national responsibility to relook at their approach and to strike a balance to ensure that the national airline earns the support by the trade in Seychelles,” the Minister said before touching on the need for Seychelles to re-look for a carnival airline partner. This followed discussions at a recent meeting held between the Air Seychelles Commercial Director and the Director of Marketing of the Tourism Board.
The Minister also took time to touch on the importance of the tourism industry for Seychelles and on the need for everyone to appreciate that the industry reacts to many factors including the need for destinations to be seen as being safe. Minister St.Ange said: “The tourism industry remains a highly volatile industry. This we all know. When the tourism industry experiences a downward turn, it is to be expected that tourism agencies fall under scrutiny and accept the lion’s share of responsibility. However it is important to state that there is another side to this coin: namely that those agencies who are responsible directly or indirectly for tourism must do everything in their power to collaborate efficiently, whole-heartedly and unreservedly in their daily operations to promote our islands in the international arena, open and maintain new markets and achieve market share”.
As the Tourism Board’s annual mid-year marketing meeting sets the framework for work by all the Tourism Board’s Overseas Offices the Minister touched on the need for everyone to remain focused on support for airline partners and for refocusing the work in Germany, Austria and Switzerland because of the needed support for Condor flights to Seychelles.
The Minister added:- “Today we know that from monitoring forward bookings and load factors it can be seen that some hub airports are facing their own challenges, so all must be done to mitigate our downward turns in traffic to ensure the continued health of airlift to the islands which is recognized as being the lifeline of our tourism industry. This is why we continue to say that direct flights to our core markets are today more important a tool than ever before. On this note I am please that in collaboration with the Ministry responsible for Transport and with the support from the Ministry responsible for Finance we have been working with Condor to entice them to firstly commit that their flight to Seychelles will not be discontinued as had been talked of during ITB in Berlin this year, but to look at putting in a second frequency. Today we can say that Condor will not only maintain their service to Seychelles, but from Christmas time this year up to Easter 2015, they will increase their service to Seychelles to two flights. Discussions are ongoing to get them to confirm a second service on a permanent basis.”
The Minister also spoke about the need for everyone to be responsible towards the tourism industry and in so doing towards the people of Seychelles and the business community as well. Minister St.Ange commented: “We all know that the livelihood of the Seychellois workforce, and about the implications for every business who has invested in one way or another is seriously affected when the island’s tourism industry is not performing. This we all know, and if we are all realistic that this hurts the Seychellois and the whole business community, why then are some of us so eager to spread adverse or negative news about Seychelles? Tourism is, and tourism will remain, a volatile industry and for its continued consolidation our destination needs to be seen to be a safe one where security at all levels is the name of the game. The malaise of the day must remain our own dirty laundry that we wash amongst ourselves. Publishing it all for the world to see is just trying to be more catholic than the Pope can ever be himself and serves no purpose whatsoever. Members of the industry must themselves stop throwing a wet blanket on the fire that is starting to be kindled. Speaking negatively about the industry we all, Private Sector and Government, People of Seychelles and the Business Community, depend on so much must be seen as a stab in the heart of everyone. When I say speaking of writing negatively, I refer to the approach of discrediting that industry, to try to help competing destinations at the detriment of our country’s very own industry.”
As he ended his address Minister Alain St.Ange appealed for togetherness and emphasised the importance of working together as a team. He used the FIFA World Cup experience as the example as he said: “Many have been watching the recent FIFA World Cup and the fortunes of the teams where one thing became hugely apparent which I believe to be analogous to our tourism industry: that totally irrespective of star-players, celebrity strikers and would-be messiahs, those lesser, mortal teams who PLAYED as a team, achieved stellar results while the others went home empty-handed.
We should learn from this: that by working together we are greater than the sum of our parts and that together we can reach places and objectives that it would be impossible to reach alone. Seychelles, we must play as a team to win big.” Minister St.Ange said.