The Seychelles Tourist Board (STB) has ended their annual marketing conference, which brought together most of their staff from the overseas tourist offices, a number of their newly-appointed “tourism ambassadors,” Air Seychelles, representatives of the private sector, and relevant governmental bodies.
Mr. Alain St. Ange, director of tourism marketing, gave a sweeping overview at the closing ceremony held at the Four Seasons Resort, in the presence of the vice president and minister of tourism Joseph Belmont. At the same time, he also formally handed over a copy of STB’s five-year plan to the VP, which outlines the way forward as developed and agreed by a cross section of stakeholders.
Among the announcements was the upcoming invitation to about 100 leading travel agents to come and visit the archipelago during 2010, aimed to equip them with hands-on knowledge about the range of facilities now available on the islands, from simple locally-owned and managed bed and breakfast establishments over “conventional” beach hotels, to top-of-the-range luxurious resorts, retreats, and spas able to hold their own against any competition in the world.
In addition, the board will continue to provide printed material for use at the major tourism trade shows and distribution by the overseas tourism offices and their tourism ambassadors, but – while design and content development would remain based in the Seychelles – printing would be done in the visitor source markets to save cost for shipment and distribution. Some of the newly-developed sales aids will focus on diving, snorkeling, fishing, island hopping, golfing, and also to further cement the archipelago’s reputation as a wedding and honeymoon destination and for its dedication to the protection of marine ecosystems. One major change though is due for implementation, as updates to the archipelago’s accommodation guides are now going to be posted online to give an instant entry to new resorts and facilities without having to wait another year before the next printed edition comes out, which by the time of publication will again already miss any other new addition to the lists.
Few would know for instance, as discovered during a recent visit to the Seychelles and interaction with leading conservationists and conservation groups, that on the Aldabra atoll as many as 150,000 of the giant-sized sea turtles can be found during the breeding season, while on the better-known Galapagos Islands, only 30,000 of them are found, i.e., the Seychelles has as many as 5 times more, yet hardly known and publicized for that type of explorer and adventure tourists.
Mr. St. Ange also requested the vice president to establish a committee dealing with tourism at the government level, to include all relevant stakeholders from government and the private sector, to coordinate activities and react to matters arising without leaving out crucial input nor otherwise affecting the smooth handling of arriving and departing visitors, leave alone impact them during their stay.
The Seychelles Tourist Board has set itself a target of increasing visitor arrival numbers from the just under 160,000 in 2009 by about 5 percent in 2011, which would mark a new record for the islands, but in view of the newly-opened resorts this will be necessary to fill the extra beds. Sources this correspondent spoke with during and after his visit also confirm that the targets are within reach, as already an upwards trend has been seen during the first few weeks of the year, while generally applauding the work done by STB since its major restructuring a year ago.
Said one Seychellois hotelier: “Without the reforms at STB a year ago, I do not know where we would be now. Tourism has always been a bit of ups and downs over the years, but a year ago we were staring at a big market loss not seen before. When the new board came in, some people were very sceptical, but most of us who invested our life savings in the industry only had big hopes that professionals would now run our marketing. It worked out better than anyone had hoped; we only just missed the 2008 figures, which were a record and instead of losing 20 percent as everyone had feared. Now everyone is behind STB because they have shown they saved tourism in the islands. Yes our revenues are still down, but that is the price we pay for the worldwide recession. At least the visitors kept coming here and tariffs will catch up again soon.”