Tourism remains vibrant despite trials, ends 2012 on bright note


STB chief executive Elsia GrandcourtThe official tourism arrival statistics issued by the National Bureau of Static shows that the week ending on Sunday December 23, 2012, Seychelles had recorded a total 201,042 visitors, which is 7% above the 2011 figure of 187, 320. This figure has remarkably eclipsed the 2011 visitor arrival record of 194,753.

2012 will also go down in Seychelles’ tourism history as the year the islands reached the 200,000 visitor mark, which was recorded the week ending December 23. Seychelles had earmarked December 27, 2012 as the symbolic date to celebrate this milestone with a special welcome at the islands’ international airport.

A lot has happened this year for the Seychelles tourism industry, which has remained one of the best performing industries of the Seychelles economy.

Earlier this year, the industry saw the previous chief executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB), Alain St Ange appointed as Minister for Tourism and Culture by President James Michel. The board’s deputy chief executive Elsia Grandcourt was entrusted with the responsibility of chief executive.

Regardless of the arrival of new airlines, including Blue Panorama, Transaero Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines, the pull-out of national airline Air Seychelles from Europe continued to upset the country’s visitor arrivals from its traditional markets, mainly France, Italy and UK. Seychelles recorded considerable drops in arrival figures from these markets.

Air Seychelles to fly to Hong Kong

Amid this void in visitor arrivals, the month of November brought Seychelles the exhilarating news that it had surpassed the 10,000 mark in visitor arrivals from the United Arab Emirates.
Other markets such as Russia, Germany, and China have outstandingly helped to reverse the downturn in Seychelles’ visitor arrivals throughout the year. This can be credited to the STB and trade partners’ policy of tapping into new potential markets. Needless to say, the airlift provided by Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, Kenya Airways and newcomer Ethiopian Airlines has also helped maintain the positive visitor arrival numbers. 

On a more positive note, the industry has welcomed the announcement of Air Seychelles’ new flight that will connect Seychelles with Hong Kong as from February next year. Air Seychelles along with the STB and trade partners were in Hong Kong in November to promote the launch of the flight as well as to sell the destination to tourism operators there. The Air Seychelles flight to Hong Kong will further boost the industry’s effort of tapping into the Hong Kong market, as well as into the Chinese market in general.

STB chairman Barry Faure welcoming the 200,000th visitor to Seychelles

The STB also received good news from French tour operators while attending the World Travel Market 2012 in November, that bookings on the French market are picking up, which means that not all is lost for Seychelles in these areas.

Keeping Seychelles vibrant throughout 2012 for both locals and visitors alike were the various events organised by the STB with the aim of further diversifying Seychelles’ unique selling points. Again this year, Seychelles along with Reunion Island hosted the second Carnaval International de Victoria which was a success. United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation secretary general Taleb Rifai attended the event.

Like for the first carnival, the 2012 Carnaval International de Victoria saw the participation of a considerable number of international groups and press members from all four corners of the world. 

Other events such as Subios – Seychelles Festival of the Sea; Miss Seychelles…Another World 2012 which was organised for the first by the STB; the Eco-Friendly Seychelles Marathon; the La Digue Feast; the Seychelles Mind, Body and Spirit Festival; the Tourism Week and Seychelles Ball also brought positive vibes for the industry and caught the attention of the international press.

Sherlyn Furneau won the Miss Seychelles …Another World beauty contest organised by the STB

The month of July saw Seychelles play host to several conferences, namely Routes Africa 2012 (July 8-10), SADC’s Retosa Board Meeting (July 11-13), and the Vanilla Islands Ministers’ meeting which was held simultaneously with the ICPT (International Council of Tourism Partners) general meeting (July 7), proving the country with its legendary natural backdrop to be the ideal venue to hold conferences and also placing it in the limelight for its adeptness and capacity to host major international forums.

The 7th Routes Africa 2012 hosted by the STB together with the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority has been deemed as the most successful one to have ever taken place within the African region, having attracted some 300 delegates from across the globe.

Minister St Ange and chief executive Grandcourt hold the prestigious World Routes 2012 award in recognition of Seychelles’ appreciation of the importance of the golden triangular approach of airlines, aviation authorities and tourism boards in moving tourism forward

Seychelles’ successful hosting of the best ever Routes Africa landed the country the prestigious World Routes 2012 award in recognition of Seychelles’ appreciation of the importance of the golden triangular approach of airlines, aviation authorities and tourism boards in moving tourism forward. Seychelles also won the award on account of its innovative marketing and public relations approach.

Likewise, the hosting of the Confederation of African Football (Caf) conference (from August 30 to September 5) by the Seychelles Football Federation with the help of the STB has also earned Seychelles many friends.

On another note, the industry has seen continuous developments on the product side, especially in terms of the new openings and extended products of the small range tourism establishments.

The Hilton Worldwide group has moved to add a third Seychelles’ property to its portfolio of properties, which is the Allamanda Beach Resort & Spa. Hilton Worldwide adds this property to its list of properties managed under the brand Double Tree by Hilton.

The Hilton Worldwide group has added Allamanda Beach Resort & Spa to its portfolio of properties

Following the launch of the Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label in June, Seychelles has seen its first three hotels awarded with the label. The three hotels – Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Beach Resort & Casino, Constance Ephelia Resort, and Hanneman Holiday Residence – were presented with their certificates during the Seychelles Ball held on September 29, 2012.

On the international scene, Seychelles, through the STB and its partners, continued with its marketing and public relations campaigns to become more visible, and like in 2011, this year has also been a good year for such ventures.

Seychelles’ appeal as a wedding destination

Again this year, Tourism and Culture Minister Alain St Ange along with STB chief executive Elsia Grandcourt have on numerous occasions been invited to address international forums.

This year has also seen Seychelles attract the attention of press and media, projecting the islands further into the limelight as a holiday destination.

As part of a series of promotional activities on the Chinese market, Seychelles with its appeal as a wedding destination, attracted some 19 Chinese couples earlier this year for their wedding ceremony. This was the first time that Seychelles hosted such a large number of couples wanting to exchange vows in a grand wedding ceremony.

19 Chinese couples got married in Seychelles in 2012

To ensure the increased visibility of Seychelles, the STB continued in its core role as producer of collateral materials used for the promotion of the destination. It has recently produced five revamped niche brochures: Sailing, Diving, Wellness & Spa, Business & Incentives and Golfing.

This five niche brochures will soon be followed by two new editions on Fishing and Eco-Tourism. The STB has also come out with a map of the archipelago, featuring all island groups and will soon have a folded map of the inner islands with Victoria, comprising useful information for tourists, as well as a new accommodation guide, which is testament to the industry’s growth being much larger than the previous version.

After months of work which began in 2011, the Seychelles 2012-2020 Tourism Master Plan for a Sustainable and Responsible Tourism was launched in early 2012. The plan provides a guiding framework for the development of the tourism industry in a sustainable and responsible manner until 2020.

Last but not least are the achievements of the STB which is currently in the process of being redeveloped and whose partnership with regional and international partners, especially Shannon College in Ireland, is ensuring a competent and professional tourism workforce for destination Seychelles.