UNWTO SUCCESSION – A GAME OF WAIT AND SEE
(Posted 21st April 2016)
As the annual Seychelles Carnival, aka Carnaval International de Victoria is getting into gear – the official opening ceremony will be held tomorrow night at the Stade Popiler in the presence of President James Alix Michel – did earlier this evening the traditional pre festival media briefing and press conference take place.
This followed the official opening of the latest hotel on the main island of Mahe, the 40 chalets Carana Beach, owned by one of the country’s most eminent tourism business families, the Masons.
Before the press conference went underway did Tourism Minister Alain St. Ange invite representatives of the 23 foreign carnival troupes to the stage to introduce them to the 124 media house representatives who had come to Victoria this year to cover the carnival festival.
In his opening remarks did the Minister say that after the record year of 2015, when arrival number rose by 19 percent on a year on year basis with over 275.000 visitors coming to the islands by air and cruise liners, the year 2016 – inspite of various global challenges – for the first three months already was another 11 percent ahead of 2015. These figures just revealed indicate that whatever the secret of success of the Seychelles marketing juggernaut is, it is working and working exceedingly well.
He also confirmed that another major European airline was planning to commence flights to Mahe by 31st of October this year but declined to mention the carriers name.
When asked by this correspondent about the upcoming succession of Dr. Taleb Rifai as UNWTO Secretary General Minister St. Ange conceded that many countries and many individuals had approached him and expressed their confidence in him that he should be nominated as a potential successor when a new Secretary General is elected at the Beijing UNWTO General Assembly next year.
Minister St. Ange however made it plain that his first duty was to his country and the Seychelles tourism industry, to safeguard the gains of past years and build on the foundations of success for yet better results in the future.
He said: ‘It took the Seychelles 40 years to reach 130.000 arrivals and in the space of the past seven years we more than doubled that figure. It shows we are doing something right. When a market goes soft, like after Paris, we are now able to accelerate growth from other market places. This development must be safeguarded. I have a duty to my country and as a member of the cabinet of ministers my first and foremost obligation is to the Seychelles‘.
Notably did he however not expressly rule out a candidacy at a later stage, prior to the UNWTO General Assembly and there was little if any doubt in the room that he is an eminently qualified potential candidate who could bring the recipe of the Seychelles tourism success to the world stage.
Other panel members on the podium, which included South Africa’s Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, the CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board Ms. Sherin Naiken, the CEO of the Vanilla Islands organization Mr. Pascal Viroleau and the CEO’s of Air Seychelles and Airtel, two of the main sponsors of the event, also answered pertinent questions. Mr. Roy Kinnear, CEO of Air Seychelles, in fact hinted that as load factors across the network kept rising, consideration was now given to adding another jet aircraft to the fleet, to meet the sharp rise in demand and cater for new routes.
Mr. Viroleau emphasized the Vanilla Island organization’s efforts to attract the world’s leading cruise lines to this part of the Indian Ocean again, a fact reaffirmed by Minister St. Ange who confirmed that two mega cruise ships had called on Port Victoria over the past two weeks.
The assembled international media and local dignitaries were then treated to the world premiere of the film ‘Aldabra, Once Upon An Island‘ featuring the Seychelles’ second UNESCO World Heritage Site after the Vallee de Mai on the archipelago’s second largest island of Praslin. Located nearly 1.000 kilometres south of Mahe is the Aldabra Atoll, often described as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean, closer to Madagascar and Mauritius than to the capital Victoria.