web analytics

Indradev Curpen of Mauritius talks with Seychelles Minister Alain St.Ange

Alain St.Ange of the Seychelles tells Indradev CURPEN, the known journalist from Mauritius, that: “It is only through togetherness that we will make our region more visible.”

Indradev Curpen of Mauritius talks with Seychelles Minister Alain St.Ange

Alain St.Ange of the Seychelles tells Indradev CURPEN, the known journalist from Mauritius, that: “It is only through togetherness that we will make our region more visible.”

Seychelles Minister of Tourism Alain St.Ange was the guest of honor at the 2nd edition of the International Tourism Fair in Madagascar last week, a Vanilla Islands event that showcases the unique attributes of the 6 islands of the Indian Ocean region. During that meeting, the member states have re-elected the Seychelles Minister for a second term in office as President of the Vanilla Islands Regional Organization. The resolution comes a few days prior to the end of the current mandate of Minis¬ter St.Ange of the Seychelles. News on Sunday met Alain St.Ange twice while he was in transit in Mauritius, on his way to the International Tourism Fair, Madagascar, and back, and we asked him of the current tourism industry situation in the region. Indradev CURPEN writes:

You are on your way to attend the 2nd edition of the International Tourism Fair in Madagascar. Can we know of the progress made by the Iles Vanilles project?

The presence of the 6 is¬lands at the Madagascar tour¬ism fair is testimony to the progress that we have made within this regional organization since our last show of solidarity at this year’s carnival in Seychelles. We have now moved a few gears with the for¬mation of a secretariat and the appointment of two key members to spearhead the development phase of the organization. We can now say that in the coming weeks, we expect to make some important announcements with regards to funding re¬ceived which will enable us start implementing a series of action plans. In Madagascar, we are meeting as the Vanilla Islands group to give clear guidance to the sec¬retariat on the key objectives expected. I am delighted that the tourism minister of Madagascar, the regional President of La Reunion, and me co-chair this import¬ant meeting as it will provide the necessary impetus for us to go forward. We shall soon be in a position to update member states on actions that will show to the world our unity as a region in promoting our region at tourism trade fairs, coupled with an extensive commu¬nications strategy to increase visibility.

What are your expectations of the second edition of the International Tourism Fair (ITM 2013) in Mada¬gascar?

As the sitting President of the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands Regional Organization, our expectation is that this Madagascar Tourism Fair, their chosen Vanilla Is¬lands event, becomes the platform for all the islands of our region to meet on an annual basis to show¬case themselves to the region, to the islanders, and the tourism trade of our respective islands, and to the tour operators and the press from the 4 corners of the world. But for this tourism fair to become what is expected of it for the region, we need to address per-tinent issues which will take us to another level – air access needs to be reinforced and solidified to ensure better and more efficient connectivity between our is¬lands. Solid growth in tourism is what will allow us to put money in the pockets of our people. So we need to show unwavering solidarity amongst ourselves as uni¬ty is strength. It is only through togetherness that we will be able to attain our objectives of making our re¬gion more visible and thus expand our tourism and respective countries’ economies.

What are the current relations between the Sey¬chelles and Mau-ritius as far as the tourism industry is concerned?

Both Mauri¬tius and Seychelles entertain a very close relationship, and this partnership keeps strengthening. As key members of the Vanilla Is¬lands, our togetherness will ensure that we remain connected and supportive of each other as was clearly displayed by Mauritius when they participated alongside La Reunion and Mada¬gascar at the last carnival in Seychelles. Seychelles and Mauritius made history when Prime Minister Ram¬goolam and President Michel signed the agreement to jointly manage an extensive maritime zone, instead of arguing over who has rights to that area. This is a big step forward for 2 small nations and has now been taken up at most international conferences as a model of joint cooperation between nations.

There are also several exchanges in area such as staff training in the tourism industry whereby skills and know-how is being shared.

Are you meeting any Mauritian official during your transit in Mauritius?

We were greeted on our arrival by Karl Mootoo¬samy the CEO of the MTPA, but unfortunately it was impossible to catch up with the minister as he had a parliamentary session the day we transited. It is im¬portant to state that this was only a short transit stop on our way to Madagascar. I did have the opportunity to meet up with Minister Sik-Yuen at the Arabian Travel Market in May, and we discussed about several issues that are of mutual benefit to both our countries. And we continue to maintain this open dialogue.

What is the outcome of your meeting with Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum and the Emirates del¬egation?

The Emirates meeting in Seychelles which was led personally by the Sheikh went very well. The delega¬tion paid a courtesy call on the President of the Re-public, before meeting ministers with the portfolio of finance, tourism, lands and environment. They were briefed on what the Seychelles felt should be requirements taken in by their new projects and also the planning steps that needed to be followed. The minis¬ters supported the concept of the project, but they all emphasized that the new Emirates project complied with the environment expectations of Seychelles. The resort will now be smaller, the proposed water bunga¬lows will not be considered any longer as this was felt not to be in line with the eco-friendly and sustainable style of development that the Seychelles was after. As a whole we are satisfied, and now it will be up to the technical teams from Emirates and Seychelles to meet to take the project to the next level in its planning.

What is the current situation for long-haul flights to the Seychelles? And how many tourists do you expect to visit the Seychelles this year?

Seychelles is currently being adequately served by several hubs in the Middle East, and this has brought us the connotation as being but one stop to anywhere in the world. As a result, we have enjoyed a healthy growth in our visitor arrival numbers which stands on a year-on-year over 2012 at +15%. We continue as a country to increase connectivity with different parts of the world, and our ministry of transport has been promoting an open sky policy. We expect to surpass our forecast of 3% in visitor arrivals over 2012 which stood at 207,000 tourists. It must be noted that this arrival figure is over twice that of our total population and 4 times that of our adult workforce. Tourism remains the pillar of the Seychelles economy and this figure is also significant as our destination is not after mass tourism and, therefore, quite sustainable.

You are now back from the International Tourism Fair. How was your sojourn in Madagascar?

As the sitting President of the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands, I traveled to Madagascar to show solidarity and to support the event that has been listed as the Malagasy event on the regional body’s calendar of events. The Prime Minister of Madagascar, H.E. Omer Beriziky, welcomed me in his Tananarive offices soon after my arrival in Madagascar. During my meeting with the Prime Minister of Madagascar, many topics of importance to the Vanilla Islands region and also to Madagascar and Seychelles were discussed such as air and maritime connectivity, possibility of export of commodities from Madagascar, the Vanilla Islands Organization itself, among others. The discussions took place in the presence of the Malagasy Minister for Tourism, Jean-Max Rakotomamonjy, and the Director of Marketing for the Vanilla Islands Regional Organiza¬tion, Derek Savy from the Seychelles.