Marketing Seychelles involves everyone and not just the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) fighting to sell the country and the ministry pushing the policies behind.
“Tourism is not a hotel or a restaurant. It is the country. Seychelles incorporated is the product we are selling. We sell what we are, what we do, what we eat, what we enjoy. But we also sell our cleanliness, the safety label we say we are, we sell a hotel that people can come back to because they’ve enjoyed it so much,” Tourism and Culture Minister Alain St Ange told the media yesterday.
Minister St Ange, Home Affairs and Transport Minister Joël Morgan as well as Finance, Trade and Investment Minister Pierre Laporte have been tasked by President James Michel to put in place the Seychelles tourism marketing strategy aimed at redressing the projected 5% decline in visitor arrivals and 3% drop in earnings compared to last year. The marketing strategy will focus on key markets – Germany, France, China, India, South Africa and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – which have already been identified.
“This new approach has resulted in regular meetings and us proposing certain changes to government. We are also looking at the budget as the private sector has been screaming that we don’t put enough money in our budget to market Seychelles. The private spends much more money than the government to market Seychelles, They make it directly and the government also injects money in all the angles that keep our country going. This is why tourism is the pillar of our economy. We need to invest more and the call has been made in both the tri-partite committee and multi-sectorial meeting that is today sitting with the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Seychelles Hotel and Tourism Association, all technicians of government and most of the ministers under the chairmanship of Vice-President Danny Faure,” said Minister St Ange.
Minister St Ange noted that the speedy trip he made to Paris last week resulted from the analysis made by the tripartite committee and which was presented to government.
“We met the press and key tour operators that sell Seychelles in France. The same thing will be done in South Africa where we have three flights and not enjoying high seat occupancy. We also have to go to China and also ensure that we don’t have the same scenario when Air Seychelles starts flying to India,” continued Mr St Ange, who noted that Seychelles will not do like eight years ago when it ran expensive advertisements on Cable News Network (CNN).
The minister added that they are analysing all their offices in the world to make them become more productive and also an expert will be coming to Seychelles to work with the STB.
“Seychelles is small. We need to make sure we have the economy of scale, with all departments working closely together. We are also looking at how we can get all our people to market Seychelles. Every Seychellois in the world must feel that Seychelles is their country. We haven’t reached there yet. We have a long way to go. All Seychellois should market Seychelles,” claimed the minister.
On the issue of Seychelles being an expensive destination, he said Seychelles will always be more expensive because of the size of its population and the fact that we import everything. And when we keep importing there’s a cost that comes with it.
“Being 25% more expensive is the gauge we have given ourselves and it is accepted that Seychelles will be more expensive than Mauritius. We are not mass market tourism. We don’t have charters that fly into the country every day. Ours is the long haul free independent traveller and it is always more expensive than a charter business,” explained Minister St Ange who also noted that we have to ensure that the trade and the Ministry of Finance, Trade and Investment work together to find the equilibrium and say this is the real cost that we should be paying.
“We should not milk the private sector, but instead all money earned through the tourism should come into the country and may later leave,” he noted.
The minister said the finance ministry is also looking at the budget to support the call that tourism makes.
He noted that for tourism to work we need the air transport – direct or indirect – and this is why they are working closely with Air Seychelles.
“There is no separation of responsibilities; it is the government that needs to work in unity to make its tourism industry work. It’s true we need more farmers to plant and more fishermen to fish. We also need to find ways to rectify the problems we are facing. We will take back to cabinet next week the need for Seychelles to be more receptive to constructive ideas that people echo to make the country more seen and to be more in tune with the demand of the discerning traveller,” said Minister St Ange, who added that travel advisory against Seychelles affects the country.
“We need to work on keeping what makes us Seychelles, and the safety label we have and need to protect at all cost,” he added.