Recently, the Seychelles Minister of Tourism and Culture, Alain St.Ange took the time to answers press questions on cultural events in his country.
Seychelles has moved from only selling itself as a sun, sea, and sand tourism destination to now include its culture as one of its unique selling points. Is that move really understood?
Believing in who we are is just not something that everyone is prepared to do. For the case of Seychelles, the Seychellois as a people is unique because of the diversity that makes us who we are. This should be not only accepted, but also showcased every time and everywhere, because when we showcase our culture, we are in-fact showcasing our people, because we cannot have any culture without people. Above all, it is known that the discerning travelers of today want more than just sun, sea, and sand, and they are all looking for that extra souvenir, and this always relates to personal contacts with the islanders, their food, their music, and their dancing; thus, the move to place culture as one of our unique selling points. When you say if it is understood, I can only smile, because unless one has a complex about who he or she is, then the move to position our culture and our people at the center of our tourism development is easily understood.
You recently earned a recognition from the United States of America for your annual carnival that will see yourself as the island’s Minister and the Seychelles enter the Hall of Fame in the USA. Do you feel vindicated?
The African Diaspora World Tourism Awards that is held in Atlanta recognizes the drive one has to showcase one’s culture. This is what we have been doing without fear or favor, because we believe in who we are. Today, we know that we shall be making it into the Hall of Fame in Atlanta, and this recognition is because of the carnival we organize annually. We have always known that our carnival is unique because it firstly parades together all the best and most-known carnivals of the world such as Brazil, Notting Hill of London, the Dusseldorf Carnival of Germany, the Italy Carnival, and the Carnival of Indonesia, and they are followed by cultural troupes from the Community of Nations. The carnival is today referred to as the “Carnival of Carnivals” by the international press and is a bit like the United Nations gathering for culture. It is not surprising to see more and more countries recognize this effort made by Seychelles. Do I feel vindicated you ask? Yes and no, because when you believe in something, you do it because you know that it benefits the country’s tourism industry through the visibility it brings and secondly because you know that the people of the islands want the event, so I am on the side of win-win.
We too often never appreciate something we have until it is no more. Today, we read that in Zanzibar, hoteliers, restaurant managers, taxi drivers, car hire operators, and traders are all worried because Zanzibar has announced that it has cancelled its annual Sauti Za Busara festival. Musicians and performers are all up in arms and threatening to take those responsible to task. This is why I have always appealed to Seychelles to stand behind the island’s cultural events, because if something has your DNA, then protect it against all cost.
What are the objectives you have set for the islands’ tourism?
Seychelles is a tourism destination with a difference. We sit in the middle of the Indian Ocean away from the challenges of many other tourism destinations. We are a safe destination with an untouched safety label. We have a weather pattern that has given us the tagline of “the islands of perpetual summer,” because we are positioned virtually on the equator and as such do not know the changing seasons. We are warm year-round, and everyone can enjoy unrivaled swimming in our warm turquoise blue seas 365 days of the year. What we need to do is to continue to protect what we have been blessed with and to be seen as good custodians of the natural beauty that makes the Seychelles the sought-after destination it is today. We know that we need to keep on with the work we do to keep Seychelles as visible as we can make it, because it is only through that visibility that we can remain relevant as a tourism destination. We are doing well today, and we shall continue to do well as long as we continue to work in unity for our islands through the established public/private sector partnership framework now in place. Seychelles has realized that we do not have two tourism industries, one for the government and one for the private sector, but instead we know that we have but one tourism industry which is for Seychelles and that we all have to work to consolidate this important industry for the long term.