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Indian Ocean Tourism


St. Ange’s Indian Ocean report

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Alain St. Ange l eTN Ambassador  Jan 23, 2008

SEYCHELLES
‘ACCESS TO BEACHES’ WILL BE RESPECTED BY INVESTORS
Seychelles has seen a consensus from every side of the political divide to ensure that all beaches on the island remain public and accessible. A recent television program brought together two elected members of the country’s national assembly, Terrence Mondon from the ruling party, the Seychelles People’s Progressive Front (SPPF), and Hon. David Pierre from the opposition party, the Seychelles National Party, to face a panel made up of Mr. Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, chairman and chief executive of the Seychelles Tourist Board (STB), Mr. Patrick Lablache, senior civil servants from the Land Use Department, Atty. Laura Valabjee and Mr. Albert Payet of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce & Industries. Uninterrupted access to beaches had become a worrying concern for the Seychelles population and for visitors to the country because of attempts by some investors to block off access to beaches in front of their resorts. The televised program showed that there was a bipartisan agreement and a consensus by government officials on the issue and that this requirement would need to be respected by all investors. The same point was the cause for an anti-tourism beach demonstration, staged for the foreign press in the ‘70s by the Seychelles People’s United Party, the predecessor of the ruling SPPF, of Mr. Albert Rene.

SEYCHELLES INTERNATIONAL FISHING COMPETITION
The Seychelles’ second edition of its International Fishing Competition which took place in 2007 saw a local entrant beat out the international contestants and claim first prize. Among the different international entries there were five Italian teams and a French team competing along side four Seychellois teams. Michael Mason in his boat ‘Ti Manmzel’ won the competition’s first prize, followed by the French team with the third position to an Italian team bearing the name “Father & Son.” The success of the second edition surpassed all expectations and every effort is now being made to make this year’s edition even bigger.

VISITORS ARRIVAL LENGTH OF STAY FIGURES ON THE RISE
Statistical figures have revealed that for the eleven month period (ending November) in 2007 the average length of stay of visitors to Seychelles is 9.9 days. This figure is a 16 percent increase in the number of nights spent by visitors in Seychelles. It was also revealed that 91 percent of arrivals in Seychelles were holidaying.

AIR SEYCHELLES IS ‘LAUNCH CUSTOMER’ FOR NEW TWIN OTTER DHC-6 SERIES 400 PLANES
Air Seychelles has confirmed its order of two brand new Twin Otter DHC-6 Series 400 aircraft for its inter-island fleet. This agreement has been signed between Air Seychelles and the Canada-based Viking Air Limited. Air Seychelles chairman David Savy said that these planes are ideal because they operate in a saline and humid environment and on short routes or on routes with rugged landings on short airstrips. Air Seychelles has also taken the option for a third Twin Otter DHC-6 Series 400 plane for delivery in 2009.

‘ECO TOURISM’ V/S RECLAMATION & DREDGING FROM THE SEA
The Seychelles is regarded as some of the most eco-friendly islands in the world with some 48 percent of its territory declared reserves. Air Seychelles has itself announced that their new Boeing 787 Dreamliner will be the most eco-friendly airplane in its class, while hotels are all looking at ways and means for being recognized as eco-friendly establishments. The government has made it compulsory as from January 2008 for every Seychelles household to pay a monthly environment tax irrespective of size of property or house. The new proposed land reclamation project in the sea on the south side of the main island of Mahe is being questioned and labeled as another ecological disaster. The reefs along that picturesque coast of Seychelles could be affected and spawning areas for tropical fish could be destroyed as has been the case with reclamation projects on the north and east coast of the same island where silt has settled on all coral even in the nearby Sainte Anne Marine National Park. Marc D’Offay, a local entrepreneur, has taken on the fight against the reclamation by posting email letters of protests to every Internet user on the island. It has now also revealed that the same concern has been raised with the offices of Green Peace and other international environmental organizations. This new reclamation proposal, which is receiving objections from residents of the island’s south coast, is raising concern on the country’s new slogan, “The Seychelles Islands… Another World” which was only launched by the country’s Vice President Joseph Belmont, at the last ITB Trade Fair in Berlin in the presence of the key tour operators, trade professionals and high profile media and some 60 delegates representing some 30 Seychelles tourism companies.

EXHIBITION DEPICTING SNOW SCENERIES IN SEYCHELLES
The Association of Visual Arts of Jarvenpaa of Finland has exhibited in Seychelles some 30 pieces of visual art, mainly paintings and photographs depicting snow and fierce contrasts. The exhibition has been held at the ‘Carrefour des Arts’ of the Seychelles National Arts Council and has been made possible through the efforts Mrs. Marja Karjalainen, consul of the Republic of Finland in Seychelles. This first exhibition is said to be the stepping stone for an exchange program that will see Seychelles artists exhibit their works in Finland.

GOVERNMENT EMBARKS ON THE PRIVATISATION PROGRAM FOR SMB
The Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB), which was set up in the days of the ‘One Party Era’ and which spanned numerous areas of commerce business, is now being dismantled by the government of President James Michel. The SMB was set up in the 1984 by former President Albert Rene, as his greatest vision, to be the main importer of all basic foodstuffs and commodities and would be the engine of economic activity for the country. Mukesh Valabjee was the man at the helm of the SMB for most of its existence. During the past 23 years the SMB was allowed to operate outside all the rules imposed on other businesses. It was not subject to price control, it got priority for foreign exchange at the banks and it was allowed monopolies on a long list of imported goods. Yet, it managed to fail in most areas of its operations. The Seychelles government has now announced that it would be privatizing most of its parastatal’s activities and restricting the role of the SMB to simply ensuring the supply of some basic commodities. Some of the SMB divisions have now gone on tender, but some of the more profitable ones have simply been purchased by the unit managers. The company’s prawn farm, set-up as SMB’s most ambitious venture with loans from foreign banks amounting to some US$35 million on the island of Coetivy, is believed to be under takeover discussions with Lehman Brothers, who already own and operate the Indian Ocean Tuna Canning Factory (IOT) which is based in Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles. SMB’s Prawn Project has become a massive drain on the country’s foreign exchange reserves. Since it was set up some 20 years ago, no independent audit has ever been carried out to assess the profitability of the project and figures published about the Coetivy Prawn Project usually ignore that the project involves around one hundred ponds, heavy electricity consumption, 150 expatriate workers and had two ships and a plane attached to it. Prawn production had been erratic and often unavailable on the local market and last year exports dropped to half of what it was two years previously. Lehman Brothers, Global Financial Services Firm vice president Vittorio Pignatti after a recent meeting with Seychelles President James Michel has hailed ‘Seychelles Good Economic Performance’ exemplified by a globally rare budget surplus. President James Michel’s reform program has also brought in a new company called Seychelles Trading Corporation, which will be taking over what remains of the SMB holdings.

REGIONAL FLIGHTS FROM SEYCHELLES REPORTED FULLY BOOKED
All Air Seychelles flights to Bangkok and Mauritius had been fully booked over the end of year festive season right up to mid-January. The twice-weekly flights to Bangkok and the four flights to Mauritius have been booked with Seychelles Nationals traveling for shopping sprees.

Seychelles is linked by flights to La Reunion by Air Austral, Nairobi by Kenya Airways and Bangkok, Singapore, Mauritius and Johannesburg in South Africa by Air Seychelles. The regional routes by Air Seychelles is served by the newly-leased Boeing 767-200, and it has also replaced the South African company’s “nationwide” Saturday flight that proved to be too small and cramped and that had to make fueling stop in the Comoros Islands.

SOUTH AFRICAN INVESTOR NAMED AS WITNESS IN ZUMA TRIAL
Mr. Vivian Reddy, a major investor in the project for the Seychelles Aurore Island Development (Resort, Apartments & Golf Course), has been named a state witness in the fraud and corruption case against Mr. Jacob Zuma, the newly-elected leader of the South African ruling party, the African National Congress. Mr. Reddy, a KwaZulu Natal Businessman, has said that he will defend Mr. Zuma when he takes the stand and that Mr. Jacob Zuma could count on him. Aurore Island is one of the new islands totally reclaimed from the sea and sits just off the coast of the North Point of the main island of Mahe.

MAURITIUS
‘MSC MELODY’ SAILED INTO MAURITIUS ON NEW YEAR’S DAY
Cruise ship MSC Melody, which sailed from Durban in South Africa on December 28, entered Mauritius on New Year’s Day with 1312 passengers on board, most of them South African nationals and eTN Ambassador Alain St. Ange and his family, enjoying a 10-day cruise inclusive of a three day stop-over in Port Louis, Mauritius. The MSC Melody, which sailed past the islands of Madagascar and La Reunion en-route to Mauritius, is promoted in South Africa by Starlight Cruises of Mrs. Daphne Osborne and Mr. Allan Foggitt and covers different cruises to the Indian Ocean Islands at the end of every year. The Starlight Cruises head of their GSA for international cruises is Mr. Clifford Foggitt and Mr Kevin Osborne, while Mr. Les Thomson head the Starlight Travel & Tours division. Front office officer, Maureen Perrine, a Mauritian national who was born in Rodrigues Island, became an invaluable asset to the ship prior to the arrival in Mauritius because of her knowledge of Mauritius. She was inundated with pertinent queries about possible tours and excursions by the passengers looking for the “do-it-yourself” experience in Mauritius. The ‘Melody’ was under the control of Captain Ciro Pinto. The local company ‘Summertimes’ of Mr. Philippe (Popo) Hitier provided the excursions support for discovery of the island. Starlight Cruises has become specialists for the Indian Ocean Islands as they operate different cruises on an annual basis that stop in Seychelles, Mauritius and La Reunion en-route to Mozambique and Zanzibar.

SHANDRANI RESORT & SPA HOPES ITS ‘WELLNESS CENTRE’ WILL BE THE BEST IN MAURITIUS
The Mauritian Resort of Shandrani has reopened its Spa Complex designed by local architect Maurice Giraud. The 2,400 meters square centre has a bamboo forest with an access lane of rough pebbles that takes visitors to the reception area of the center. The 20 treatment cabins (15 singles and 5 doubles) are all covered by thatch and provide a ‘Robinson Chic’ atmosphere and feeling.

PRIME MINISTER RAMGOOLAM SAYS 2008 WILL BE DECIDING YEAR
Mauritius Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam, in a televised address to the people of Mauritius to welcome in the New Year, has said that 2007 had been a trying year but that he remained confident that all the efforts of his Government and of the Business Community would make 2008 a deciding year for the country.

PUBLIC HEALTH ACT MAKES FOR ‘NO SMOKING’ IN RESTAURANTS
One of the most popular restaurants in Quatre Borne in Mauritius, the Dragon Vert welcomes diners with a reminder of the notice banning smoking in restaurants in Mauritius. The Public Health Act now prohibits smoking in all licensed restaurants.

MAURITIUS & SEYCHELLES LISTED AS COUNTRIES RECEIVING MILITARY TRAINING AID FROM INDIA
The Mauritius and Seychelles Armed Forces has been listed as friendly countries for India who now benefits with training to its officers and Personnel Below Officer Rank (PBOR). Mauritius and Seychelles are part of 19 countries including Cambodia, whose Royal Cambodian Special Forces are all receiving military training by Indian training personnel. India says that the globalize world is now matched by globalize militant ideology. An Indian military commandant also said that the world also needs to tackle the menace of terrorism globally and joint military training was a step in the global war on terrorism.

RIGHTS OF MAURITIAN CREOLES DISCUSSED WITH RAMGOOLAM
The head of the Federation des Creoles Mauricien (FCM), Reverend Jocelin Gregoire met the Mauritian Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam to plead the case of Mauritian Creoles. Rev. Gregoire has been leading a campaign to get more recognition to the island’s creoles saying that they are presently disadvantaged by the stated segregations as it stands in the Mauritius constitution.

MADAGASCAR
APPEAL LAUNCHED FOR DONATIONS TO MADAGASCAR
The charitable organization affiliated to the Roman Catholic Church in Seychelles, Caritas, has launched appeals to the Seychelles community in solidarity with the less fortunate people of Madagascar. Mr. Denis Payette, the communications of Caritas, has said that the Indian Ocean region had entered the cyclonic season and the collection of clothes items, food stuffs and cash is a proactive measure in preparation for what may happen during that cyclonic period in the sister island of Madagascar. Bishop Denis Wiehe, head of the Seychelles Roman Catholic Church personally appealed, during a high mass service, for the collection of funds for the poor of Madagascar and a sum of 10,305.00 rupees (US$1200) was raised which will form part of the package bound for Madagascar. The organization Colis Transit in Madagascar will be handling the distribution of the contents from the Seychelles collection.

St. Ange’s Indian Ocean report



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