Seychelles tourism chief delivers address to UNWTO General Assembly


Alain St.Ange, the CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board, took to the podium on Tuesday, October 11, to deliver his address at the 19th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly, which is being held this year in Gyeongju in Korea.

Mr. St.Ange used his address to remind the General Assembly and all UNWTO’s Member States of the beauty of the Seychelles and of the new vision of the islands, which was launched by President James Michel of the Seychelles when he re-launched the country’s tourism industry following the economic difficulties that had touched the Seychelles main tourist markets.

The General Assembly had already heard many Ministers and Heads of delegations from Member States talk about their own country’s tourism industry. Alain St.Ange from the Seychelles decided to showcase the Indian Ocean Islands by emphasizing that everyone in the world of tourism should already know about the award-winning white sandy beaches of the Seychelles and about the turquoise blue seas that lap those clean white sandy beaches.

He emphasized the role being played by the Seychelles in the field of sustainable tourism and informed the General Assembly that the government of the Seychelles had now declared over 50% of the land area of the island to nature reserve. He also spoke about the work being undertaken between himself and Minister Freddy Ehlers, the Ecuador Minister responsible for tourism, in a bid to jointly promote Ecuador’s World Heritage Site of Galapagos and the Seychelles own World Heritage site of Aldabra Atoll.

Mr. St.Ange also echoed words of support for Kenya’s Tourism Minister Balala who had spoken about the Somali Pirates and the effects it was having on shipping routes and the tourism industry. He said that it was planned for the Tourism Ministers of Kenya and Tanzania and himself as the CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board to try to meet to see how a statement could be prepared to mandate the UNWTO to look at the Somali piracy concern as a challenge of the world and to transmit the appeal raised at the General Assembly to the United Nations.

When ending his address, Alain St.Ange presented a copy of the limited edition souvenir book of the Seychelles carnival to the Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of the Republic of Korea, HE Mr. Choe Kwang Shik, and to Mr. Taleb Rifai, the UNWTO Secretary General, after he had presented to the General Assembly the Seychelles Carnaval International de Victoria as the world’s only carnival of carnival.

Below is an extract of the address delivered by Alain St.Ange, CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board to the 19th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly on Tuesday 11th October:

His Excellency the Minister responsible for Tourism of Korea, The Secretary General of the UNWTO, Excellencies, Ministers, Delegates,

Thank you Korea for having us, and thank you also for having been the perfect hosts that you are. Thank you.

Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen, we have all heard since yesterday many addresses from our colleagues and from our friends all coming from the world of tourism. All showed the importance of tourism to their respective countries and to the world.

But we all knew the importance of tourism, and we also all knew even before coming here that tourism remains the engine for economic growth.

Mr. chairman, on behalf of the tropical islands of the Seychelles, I feel honored to stand before you at the 19th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly to represent the smallest nation of the Community of Nations and of our great tourism family. We have but a total population of 87,000 and a working population of just 47,000.

Seychelles, as you all know, is a country whose prosperity depends on its tourism industry, and that industry in turn, on adequate airlift.

Seychelles is conveniently situated at the center of the world, advantageously straddling its time zones for the benefit, not only of visitors, but of investors, too.

We are not here today to tell you that we have award-winning white sandy beaches, because you are from the world of tourism and you know that already; we are not going to also talk about our turquoise blue seas that lap those clean white sandy beaches, because that also you all know. Nor are we going to stand here to talk about the diversity of our people who make up our population, our rich culture, architecture, delicious Seychellois Creole cuisine, and the suite of activities we have, and of the 115 sparkling islands that offer almost the surreal contrast between towering granitic islands with mist-clad peaks, and low-lying coral islands surrounded by their pristine sapphire waters, because all that you also already know.

What we want to tell you, Mr. chairman, excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen is that the Seychelles tourism industry has gone from strength to strength in recent years, largely thanks to a new synergy between the private and public sector that has allowed the former to take active responsibility for the industry and making for increased levels of commitment and buy-in from stakeholders, while government acts as facilitator.

This watershed has enabled Seychelles tourism to make some much needed changes on the ground, as well as permitting us to make more efficient use of our resources, both financial and human.

It has also placed us in a position where we can pursue our policies of consolidating our core European markets, while exploring exciting opportunities for market-share in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas. Our open-skies policy has already generated increased airlift, and this is something we will continue to look at as a platform for exploring enticing twin-hub holidays with partners regionally and also from the west and east of us.

Being a country with limited resources, we will continue to raise our country’s profile through such tactical, lightweight programs as “Seychelles Tourism Ambassadors” and “Friends of the Press- Seychelles,” which capitalize on loyalty towards our islands as a means of increasing awareness across a broad front and in ways totally disproportionate to the resources at our disposal.

We have ambitious plans for our Seychelles Tourism Academy, which trains professionals in the hospitality industry and which is undergoing a major facelift as we speak, while we have now embarked on a program of sustainability labeling for the tourism industry to ensure that what we do today does not happen at the expense of tomorrow. Seychelles is a believer that we do not have an industry unless it is sustainable. Only yesterday, Minister Freddy Ehlers, the Ecuador Minister responsible for tourism, and myself agreed to join forces in a bid to jointly promote Ecuador’s World Heritage Site of Galapagos and the Seychelles very own World Heritage Site – the Aldabra Atoll.

Seychelles is currently fine-tuning its Tourism Master Plan, which is the end product of an exhaustive process of consultation with all industry players to guide our industry in the years ahead.

Conscious as we are of the fragility of our ecosystems, we shall be doing all in our power to observe and foster best practice in policies designed to protect the development and mitigate against the impact of tourism on the ecology and our society.

We are committed to balancing the interests of development with those of conservation and to following through on our hard-won conservationist credentials for the benefit of future generations of Seychellois and visitors alike. Seychelles today is the first country with over 50% of its land mass set aside for nature conservation and this by legislation passed for declaring it nature reserves.

Our own vision of tourism launched by our President, Mr. James Michel, aptly named the Seychelles brand, is now set to consolidate our industry that remains the pillar of our economy. This brand of tourism continues to promote what we call personalized tourism for our islands, and the inclusive approach of our population within the industry. Claiming back our industry for our people was center to that new vision as we wanted the Seychellois to own their tourism industry.

Mr. chairman, excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen, Mr. Balala, the Minister from Kenya, touched on the issue of Somalia and we want to end by echoing the same words. Somalia is a world challenge and not that of Kenya, Tanzania, and the Seychelles. Shipping routes down the Gulf of Aden, along the African coast, and the Indian Ocean are today being affected by the Somali pirates. We know that for activities such as retail, travel, and finance we need confidence, as that remains the essential ingredient for such activities to succeed. Well, the Somali pirates are showing that they can remove the needed confidence from the world of shipping, and more. Let us take the message to the Community of Nations and seek a redress to this challenge. This afternoon we are hoping for the tourism ministers from Kenya and Tanzania with myself representing the Seychelles to meet to see how we join together to get our message to the Secretary General of the UNWTO for it to be retransmitted to the world leaders.

As I started my intervention, I thanked Korea for hosting us in this 2011 General Assembly. Last night, Zambia and Zimbabwe said they are ready to host us in 2013; let us unite to bring our next General Assembly to Africa and give the chance for Africa to again showcase its successes and challenges. Among many other achievements of Africa, we saw South Africa do it with the FIFA World Cup, we see Seychelles with its annual carnival of carnivals, let Zambia and Zimbabwe make Africa proud as they showcase Africa’s wonder of the world, their Victoria Falls.

Mr. chairman, to end, we say that Seychelles will persist with reinforcing our policy of social inclusiveness and the precepts of Seychelles’ unique brand of tourism by creating a suite of international events such as our “Carnaval International de Victoria” to attract visitors and win the understanding and support of the local population for their tourism industry. This carnival is now known to the world as the carnival of carnivals because it remains the only carnival where the best and known carnivals of the world descend on Seychelles to walk side by side in a procession alongside cultural groups from the community of nations. A carnival called under the theme of the melting pot of cultures, and that it has already become.

I have the pleasure now of presenting to you, the Korean Minister responsible for tourism, and to you, Mr. Secretary General of the UNWTO, with a limited edition copy of our Souvenir Book on the Seychelles Carnival.

Thank you.

PHOTO: Alain St.Ange, CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board, addressing the UNWTO General Assembly and seen presenting a copy of the limited edition souvenir book of the Seychelles carnival to the Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of the Republic of Korea, HE Mr. Choe Kwang Shik and to Mr. Taleb Rifai, the UNWTO Secretary General.