SEYCHELLES – Gerard Payet had a letter published in the Seychelles Nation that insinuated that the country was “putting all our eggs in one basket.” The Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) has reacted about this statement when journalists contacted Alain St.Ange, the CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board and eTurboNews ambassador. He said that Gerard Payet’s letter has brought to light an interesting debate concerning the “opening up” of the Seychelles skies to new airlines.
Alain St.Ange said that Mr. Payet is misguided in believing that Emirates airlines has been given preferential treatment and that no other airline has been welcomed to Seychelles.
“This is far from the truth and needs to be clarified, because we are investing a lot of energy and marketing power to open up our tourist market to new visitors from around the world such as China and India and the Middle East. In the last 3 years, Seychelles has had talks with many airlines including Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Air Berlin, Air Europa, Air China, Jet Airways (India), Iberian Airlines, Comair, and Thai Airlines, and they have all expressed great interest to fly to Seychelles,” said Alain St.Ange.
These carriers have not as yet taken the decision to fly here, although discussions are still open, primarily because of the risk involved in creating new long-haul routes during a global recession when many airlines faced bankruptcy. At the same, the Tourism Board said that Emirates is an airline that has fared well during the recession, and because Dubai is only a 4-hour flight from Seychelles, the airline already had an attractive position to add Seychelles as a medium-haul flight. “They took a risk, and found it was profitable, which is a positive example for other airlines wishing to fly to Seychelles, as Emirates has proved that the Seychelles connection can be a successful operation,” Alain St.Ange said.
Furthermore, the Tourism Board said that Dubai is a major international airport “hub,” so in return, Seychelles has benefitted from this by becoming more accessible to travelers from North America, Russia, Australia, Africa, and other European countries where Air Seychelles is not present. “By Seychelles giving access to more airlines, we are not diminishing the importance of our national air carrier Air Seychelles, because Air Seychelles is, and remains, part of our Seychelles brand, our national pride, and tradition,” Alain St.Ange said.
The CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board continued in saying that: “We need to continue to guarantee the quality of the Air Seychelles service. New airlines coming to Seychelles should not be a threat, but instead the sign of healthy competition, and the growth of the market. While Air Seychelles may not always have the largest market share of passenger arrivals, it can still be the best airline of the region and have planes which are full, make a profit, and at the same time make substantial revenue from its excellent ground-handling operations when more planes from new destinations start flying to Seychelles. Air Seychelles has a distinct advantage as the primary long-haul, non-stop carrier, which offers travelers the comfort of arriving directly on our shores from Europe. By all means it should retain this position.”
Alain St.Ange ended by saying that the Seychelles Tourism Board and the government have the responsibility to look at all the available hotel beds, large hotels, and the small Seychellois-owned establishments. “We owe it to every industry player to be able to adequately ensure that visitor arrival numbers remain on the increase, and for this to happen, we need airlines to fly to Seychelles with tourists for our hotels,” said Alain St.Ange.