Tourism officials meet hoteliers on Praslin-● Swim ban at certain Praslin beaches to be lifted next month


01-February-2012

Some 60 hoteliers turned up for the meeting at the Tante Mimi Restaurant, Côte d’Or, organised by the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association (SHTA) in conjunction with the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB).

Among officials present were STB chairman Barry Faure and its chief executive Alain St Ange, the head of the Seychelles Maritime Safety Administration (SMSA) Captain Joachim Valmont and the police regional commander for Praslin, Inspector Jean-Paul Quatre. 

Mr St Ange confirmed that Paris-Seychelles services by Austral flights which were to start in March, will not take off as planned.

It was explained that unlike Air France, which code-shared with Seychelles for the five weekly flights, Air Austral has no connections with other French or European cities.

But it appears that when Air Seychelles announced the strategic partnership with Etihad, the Reunion-based airline found this as a way out.

Mr St Ange said however that the direct Blue Panorama service from Milan and Rome will go ahead starting February 14 .

He said Blue Panorama also flies to Nice, in Southern France, as well as Spain and Portugal and that these can also be tapped.

SHTA chairman Louis D’Offay was however concerned about the timing of the Air Seychelles pullout from Europe. He said it was a pity the tourism trade “was left in the dark”, though everybody knew that Air Seychelles could not continue the way it was.

Mr D’Offay said the small hotels on Praslin, depending on the French market, had been the strongest hit -- with occupancy down to half what it usually was in January.

SHTA secretary Daniella Payet-Alis said announcements had been “badly done”.
Mr Faure said Etihad must be seen as “the saviour” not “the destroyer” of Air Seychelles.

He recalled that government had done its utmost to protect Air Seychelles, preoccupying itself with saving hundreds of jobs, while maintaining air links and seeking to diversify the tourism market.

Mr Faure said after cash injections of over R400 million, with Air Seychelles continuing to lose R1 million daily, the painful decision was taken to withdraw most international flights, which included Singapore and Europe.

This, he said, was done because after the initial announcement of downscaling, forward bookings were hardly encouraging.

Praslin hoteliers came out unanimously in favour of the lifting of a ban on swimming at certain beaches, notably Anse Lazio, Anse Georgette, Pti Anse Kerlan and St Pierre.
This was enforced after two freak shark attacks at Anse Lazio last August.

The hoteliers felt that this was generating bad publicity for Praslin, as tourists were constantly reminded of the two fatal incidents.

Letters had been sent to President James Michel about the issue by the SHTA and he has written back sharing his concern, agreeing that the swim ban should be lifted, on condition that some safety measures are enforced.

Mr Faure announced a lifting of the ban in March after two or three Australian life-guards have been here and assisted with the setting up of “lifeguard centres” at the main beaches.

Capt Valmont said this should include a watchtower and lifeguards properly trained in search, rescue and life-saving, patrolling aboard zodiacs. Since there are some 115 beaches on the main islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue, it will not be possible to have lifeguard stations everywhere. But Mr Valmont said where there is no such centre, billboards will be placed, advising swimmers of any dangers, if any, and that they are swimming at their own risk.

At the meeting, hoteliers also voiced concern over the bad state of domestic air services.  It appears that few planes are in running order and passengers often have to wait for long hours to board, despite having confirmed tickets for scheduled flights.

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