Alain St.Ange, CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board; David Germain, the Seychelles Regional Tourism Director for Africa; and Glynn Burridge, Seychelles Tourism Board Copywriter and Tourism Consultant are attending the meeting of the SADC Ministers responsible for tourism and the 46th RETOSA board meeting in Livingstone, Zambia, between June 19-25, 2011.
The meeting of RETOSA, the regional tourism organization of Southern Africa was convened to discuss a range of issues pertinent to the tourism interests of the region, including the matter of Seychelles’ application to join the organization. To this effect, Alain St.Ange was invited to address the meeting and to make the case for Seychelles to join RETOSA but with a reduced membership fee.
Alain St.Ange made a strong case for Seychelles to become a member of RETOSA, citing the fact that Seychelles is a small country still feeling the effects of an economic reform program, as well as having to meet the high financial costs associated with the fight against piracy. He argued that although Seychelles might not find itself in a position to pay the full quantum of fees, it will more than compensate by contributing “in kind” and by proactively furthering the aims and objectives of RETOSA.
The text of Alain St.Ange’s speech is reproduced with permission:
“Members responsible for our tourism organisation for Southern Africa, delegates, ladies & gentlemen,
“I am here in Livingstone to make an appeal to you concerning the quantum for the Seychelles payment of fees to be a member of RETOSA. I stand before you here as the representative of one of the tiniest nations on Earth, something that the briefest examination of the world map will confirm. A country that has more sea than land. A small country that remains part of Africa.
“As one might well expect, not only is Seychelles one of the tiniest nations on Earth, but it is also one with one of the smallest working populations. We have a workforce amounting to no more than 46,000 individuals within a total population of a mere 86,000 and possess a very small budget with which we are obliged to meet all of our considerable financial obligations.
“As you are no doubt aware, our islands have only recently witnessed an extensive program of economic reform, the effects of which are still being felt. This reform program we are still completing, with the support of the IMF and of the World Bank. We needed to consolidate our economy, as the main tourism markets we so depend on had entered their very own economic crisis or, as was widely called, their recession.
“We were trying to consolidate our economy, which is totally dependent on tourism as our main industry, when its main markets were in trouble, and while at the same time finding ourselves at the vanguard of expensive international efforts to combat the increasing threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean.
“Seychelles is proud to have taken a very dynamic stance on the matter of international piracy in its exclusive economic zone, and its pro-activeness in combating this scourge has been widely recognized. Seychelles’ determination to play a significant role in the anti-piracy initiative, however, comes with a hefty price tag, which, as conventional wisdom would have it, looks like being the case for some years to come.
“We help lead the fight against a problem that has been, and still is affecting, what we call our shipping lanes or routes, when these same lanes and routes are, in fact, the African shipping lanes or routes.
“Piracy is making the commerce routes between COMESA and SADC countries and the rest of the world, not only more expensive, but difficult to maintain.
“As Seychelles stands in the front line of the fight against piracy, Africa’s tourism interests along its eastern coast are being allowed to be
consolidated because, left to its own devices, piracy can and will destroy our tourism industries and cruise ship business.
“This case we are making only to state our difficulties for your information and for your consideration.
“Here, today, I would like to make it perfectly clear that Seychelles does very much desire to be a full member of RETOSA and be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with her African brothers, working together for the betterment of our tourism industries. In this and other respects, we are quite certain that we have a valuable role to play in the organization.
“Examining the situation from another perspective, a perspective that is a reality for Africa and all that is African: Seychelles is the only African country that is and that remains entirely dependent on tourism. Seychelles remains a country where its tourism industry is the main pillar of its economy.
“This being the case, we in Seychelles find it inconceivable that Seychelles should not have a role in RETOSA and assume its responsibility for enhancing the common tourism-related interests of its regional partners and of the African mainland. This is why we are here to make the case for us to become a member, even though we are, and even though we remain, your smallest member and Africa’s smallest country.
“While Seychelles, for the above-stated reasons does not find itself in a position to pay the full complement of its fees, I would like to affirm that even though Seychelles is not in a position to be able to pay such fees, Seychelles wants to assure you all that it will remain committed to paying ‘in kind’ and will be an active member, eagerly working alongside the secretariat of RETOSA and assisting in the implementation of all of its policies and directives of RETOSA.
“Seychelles prides itself on taking its international responsibilities [seriously], and Seychelles is fully conscious of the importance of the role of such an organization as RETOSA in facing the key challenges that face tourism
in the region.
“We identify very strongly with your mission; we identify very strongly with your mandate and with your aim to promote regional tourism; and we support, fully, your endeavors. We are proud to be associated with you and, as I said earlier, we wish to be even more proud to stand alongside you in the future.
“We sincerely hope that, given the circumstances that I have described earlier, you will give favorable consideration to a reduction in the fees that Seychelles shall be expected to pay, in the full knowledge that our islands shall more than compensate in the energy, commitment, and vigor it will bring to RETOSA.
“Honorable members of RETOSA, we look forward to the fullest and most productive collaboration with you in the future as, together, we examine ways to raise the profiles of RETOSA, of our individual countries, and of the region as a whole.
“This is the time for Africa to stand with Africa and to promote platforms, which nurture common growth. In this respect, I am proud to state that our small nation is busy growing such a platform.
“The Seychelles Carnaval International de Victoria, now due to become an annual international event, was first launched earlier this year, in March, and witnessed the participation of 21 foreign delegates and floats out of a total of more than 60.
“Three countries here represented, members of RETOSA, were present in Seychelles for this carnival of carnivals – South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania Zanzibar sent delegations to show off their people, their culture, and their attractions while Zimbabwe and Tanzania-Zanzibar had their respective vice presidents lead their delegations, while Mauritius had its Deputy Prime Minister present at the carnival’s opening ceremony.
“The carnival featured 3 days of color, spectacle, and entertainment and pulled never-before-seen crowds onto the streets of our tiny capital, Victoria, before cohorts of the world’s press. Our carnival is just one example of ‘African’ events that we must create and nurture to raise our individual and common profile.
“Opportunities for each member to showcase its own particular cultural heritage to the world, while at the same time demonstrating its solidarity with its African brothers in a common initiative to be seen on the international stage and to create awareness.
“It gives me great pleasure to extend an invitation to you, one and all, to participate in the 2nd edition of the Carnaval International de Victoria due to be held in Seychelles between March 2-4, 2012 and to show your solidarity and support for an African event that has already captured not only the world’s attention but also its imagination.
“Thank you for your attention.”
Senior officials of RETOSA are expected to make an official announcement about the outcome of the matter in the coming day.