The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 June 2014
Also, thanks to his campaign to increase the visibility of the destination in the world press, the country is today enjoying a success story.
‘Ile en Ile’ magazine of Mauritius recently published an exclusive interview with the minister: “Seychelles’ Tourism – A Success Story”. It tells of Seychelles’ 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 as the rest of the world was in economic turmoil.
Minister St. Ange describes the tourism climate in Seychelles as a true success, achieving its objectives at all levels.
He says that all the hotels in Seychelles 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 of 230,272 tourists travelled 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.
Asked about the new regulations being implemented to encourage more ‘home grown’ tourism related businesses. He says that two and a half years ago, the Seychelles’ President James Michel, laid out a new road map for tourism. (Photo: St. Ange – left).
The president’s wish was to see more Seychellois taking ownership of the tourism industry.
Minister St. Ange stressed 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, and also farmers, fishermen, and 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 colours 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 centre 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 centre 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.
The Gambia – a country located not far from Sierra Leone, with a population of 1.8 million people, compared to Sierra Leone’s 6 million, has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in developing its tourism industry.
Today, both the Gambia and the Seychelles are two of the most popular tourism destinations on the African continent, with highly advanced systems and infrastructures in place.
Sierra Leone has the potential, but must do more, if it is to compete with the continent’s best.