BLAZING HIS OWN TRAIL – ST. ANGE’S MARCH TOWARDS THE UNWTO ELECTIONS
(Posted 28th March 2017)
Campaigns for the next United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General (SG) are in full swing. Seven candidates are competing to lead the UNWTO and they are from Armenia – Mr. Vahan Martirosyan, from Brazil – Mr. Márcio Favilla, from Colombia – Mr. Jaime Alberto Cabal Sanclemente, from Georgia – Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, from the Republic of Korea – Mrs. Young-shim Dho, from Seychelles – Mr. Alain St. Ange, and from Zimbabwe – Dr. Walter Mzembi.
The Secretariat received seven other applications which were not accompanied by the required documents. Consequently, the applications will not be submitted to the 105th session of the Executive Council.
A nominee will be elected by the UNWTO Executive Council at its 105th session to be held on May 11-12, 2017 in Madrid, Spain, and will be recommended to the UNWTO General Assembly, which will take the final decision on the candidature for appointment to the post of Secretary General at its twenty-second session, to be held from September 4-9, 2017 in Chengdu, China. Thirty-four countries are members of the UNWTO Executive Council: Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Flanders, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Peru, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Tunisia, and Zambia.
While most candidates are focusing on lobbying and reaching out to members of the Executive Committee, Alain St.Ange, former Minister of Tourism for the Seychelles, has a different approach. He feels getting endorsement from the private sector would influence Executive Council countries to vote for him. Alain was always a likable and popular minister, easy to approach and to communicate with.
The candidates for the post of Secretary General of the UNWTO have all followed different paths in their campaign for the top job in tourism, but all seven candidates have been appealing to the 34 voting countries for a vote. Courtesy visits to countries are being made to woo them for a vote followed by breakfast, lunch, or dinner meetings and endorsement cocktails at tourism trade fairs. This all involves money and lots of it, and this is where the country’s support of their candidates is very apparent.
St.Ange is the mid-ocean islands of Seychelles’ candidate for SG of the UNWTO. He has opened his doors to the press and was on Quest Means Business with Richard Quest on CNN and also with Adam Boulton on Sky TV and BBC Radio Africa over and above a number of full-color magazines such as FIRST of the UK and many in Africa and the Middle East. As St.Ange appealed to ministers of tourism for their votes, he also appealed to the tourism trade to help his bid.
‘Whoever is elected as the new SG of the UNWTO will impact your industry. You need someone who will hears you, one who will be a facilitator to your country and their tourism minister; you need someone who will be a leader and yet a friend, so help me out‘ St.Ange said to the tourism trade right across the world.
This call resulted in letters of endorsement and many of them. The call also resulted in support from lobby groups such as the disabled, the LGBT, women’s organizations, ethnic groups, chambers of commerce, and even the Lion’s Club, to call for support for St.Ange of the Seychelles as their preferred candidate. Travel and tourism press have also come out, as well as politicians from many island states.
Alain St.Ange, who reacts to each and every Letter of Endorsement, says it is always better to let those who have worked with him speak up for him. ‘Saying you are good is one thing, this is you blowing your own trumpet, but when those who know you speak up, it shows your belief in democracy and the decentralization of the UN body for tourism’ says St.Ange, who argues that it is not enough to depend on the few who sit in the electoral college of the UNWTO. ‘The world of tourism needs to be a ward of this coming election, because the new SG will impact tourism and its development for the next four years‘ Alain St.Ange added.
The Seychelles candidate received many letters of endorsement from tourism private sector trade and from the international press. The Seychelles candidate also received Letters of Endorsement from President Danny Faure of the Seychelles, and from Sir James Mancham, the Seychelles founding President of the islands who wrote an open letter about his support for the Seychelles’ St.Ange bid for the United Nations just a week before he passed away.
Other letters came in from the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands Organization (Comoros, Mayotte, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion, and Seychelles); the Africa Ports Association of Eastern and Southern Africa (PMAESA); the Tanzania Society of Travel Agents (TASOTA); the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association (SHTA); Fred W. Finn, the World’s Most Travelled Person Guinness World Records; the Seychelles Hindu Kovil Sangam Association, India’s important N.R.I. Welfare Society; the Creole Travel Services of Seychelles; and the Association of Tourism Professionals of Mauritius (ATP); and Eden Island Seychelles.
Bea Broda, the known Producer/Writer/Host/Speaker from the Americas, wrote: ‘One candidate that stands out to me is Alain St.Ange, the former Minister of Tourism of Seychelles. In the seven years that I have been familiar with his work, I have witnessed the extraordinary dedication, enthusiasm, and visionary brilliance that resulted in his enormous success in this role. St.Ange took a relatively small island nation in the middle of the Indian Ocean and created a way to bring Seychelles to the forefront of global attention with the enactment of the Carnaval International de Victoria. This international event experienced six years of success, not only bringing interest and tourism to the nation, but proudly unifying all of the people who live there towards a common goal. In addition, St.Ange was a founder of the Vanilla Islands of the Indian Ocean, a consortium designed to combine the strengths of the islands located in the Indian Ocean to present a strong front in a competitive market. He has worked ceaselessly in the direction of the absolute success of those issues to which he cheerfully commits his time, and I would personally like to see someone with his considerable vision, dedication, and creativity take the helm of an organization as influential to tourism as UNWTO‘.
Theresa St.John, a reputed travel writer, said, ‘It’s not often that I have the chance to interact with someone who speaks so passionately about travel, tourism, and the people behind the business of it‘. Also endorsing St.Ange are the Hon. Xavier-Luc Duval, former Deputy Prime Minister of Mauritius who had responsibility for tourism and was also a past president of the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands, now Leader of the Opposition in Mauritius; the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Gilbert Lamory, the Vice President responsible for Development for GIHP (Groupement pour l’insertion des personnes Handicapees Physiques) of France; Johnny Rohregger, the King of Travel; and Hardy Lucas, a former political colleague of the Seychelles candidate.
Germany’s Thomas Cook Group Airlines Condor Flugdienst GmbH, a leading European Leisure Airlines Group said, ‘Alain St.Ange is in the top league by global comparison, and we wish him all the best for his candidacy for the UNWTO‘ and Wolfgang H. Thome of the Aviation, Tourism & Conservation News from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands, wrote, ‘St.Ange is My Man for the UNWTO Top Job‘. Maxime Behar, the President of the ICCO, the largest public relations community in the world, being in 48 countries, said, ‘I know Alain St.Ange as a perfect professional who understands every single small detail in the tourism business, but also has a wide vision on the whole world and knows how to make this business much more efficient and result oriented‘. On his part, Peter Sinon, former Seychelles Ambassador & Minister and former Executive Director of the African Development Bank for Africa’s Eastern Constituency said, ‘I wholeheartedly endorse Alain St.Ange for the post of Secretary General of the UNWTO‘ and the AIOM, the Association of Inbound Operators (Mauritius) has also now endorsed him.
One journalist who writes daily on tourism and aviation in East Africa is Wolfgang H. Thome, and he also came out to say the St.Ange was his man for the UNWTO. Wolfgang Thome wrote: ‘Alain St.Ange and I knew of each other way before we met for the first time, notably in Kampala, where he had come to attend a tourism and trade conference for Eastern Africa and COMESA. From then on, when he was appointed as Director of Tourism Marketing at the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) – put forward by a private fed up with the ‘same old same old’ in those days and when he rapidly rose to become CEO of STB – we were in constant touch with each other. Alain valued advice and experience and proved to be a man not shooting from the hip before all facts were on the table and known, and even then, opted for persuasion and convincing others of the right way forward rather than rushing into rash statements and actions. The fortunes of Seychelles tourism rose and rose while he was at STB, the Carnaval de Carnivals, aka the Carnival International de Victoria, was launched in 2011, and this master stroke propelled the archipelago into the global media like never before and resulted a year later in Alain being appointed Minister of Tourism and Culture. Our relationship prospered, not in material terms I hasten to point out, but by allowing for yet more professional exchanges and interaction, as the juggernaut of Seychelles’ marketing had found a new champion. Swiftly did St.Ange engage with the global aviation industry, brought Routes Africa to Victoria, and become a much sought-after keynote speaker for tourism events around the world, who wanted to know the secret of his success and how Seychelles punched consistently above their weight, given that the islands only have 90,000 inhabitants. St.Ange also became a champion of Seychelles’ tourism investors and stakeholders, professing his belief that Seychellois needed to take back their industry and begin to offer a unique product reflecting Creole traditions and culture, and pour those ingredients into the melting pot of the hospitality industry. A strong supporter of industrial training, he threw his weight behind the Seychelles Tourism Academy (STA), which today is a case study for other countries, how cooperation and innovation led to STA becoming the Indian Ocean’s leading institution for tourism and hospitality training. Currently undergoing the final touches of phase two of a three-phased expansion, St.Ange can be proud of getting the private sector on board and supporting vocational and tertiary training of young Seychellois keen to make a career in the industry. Arrivals grew and grew some more with some phenomenal results in recent years, when visitor arrivals set new records from 2009 onwards, now in excess of 300,000 tourists per annum. January this year saw a rise of 34 percent more tourists streaming into the islands, to a large part attributed to a liberalized aviation regime which St.Ange influenced, adding frequencies, larger aircraft, and new airlines calling on Mahe’s international airport, while at the same time Air Seychelles prospered too with new passenger records year after year. When St.Ange a few weeks ago threw his hat in the ring as a candidate for the post of Secretary General of UNWTO, he first resigned so as not to use the resources of his government for his campaign, even though getting endorsed from the President of Seychelles. From HE Danny Rollen Faure to the grassroot stakeholders in the industry and everyone in between, they have all endorsed him in glowing terms. Alain a few days ago came on invitation of the East Africa Tourism Platform (EATP) and of Uganda’s Minister for Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities. the Hon. Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, to attend the annual Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo in Kampala. As a keynote speaker and guest of honor at the EATP launch of their ‘Destination East Africa’ web portal, he used the opportunity, as he did in the following panel discussions, the Ministerial Round Table and a series of one-on-one meetings with the East African movers and shakers in the tourism and aviation industry, to present his vision. His manifesto, submitted with his candidacy documents during FITUR at the UNWTO head offices in Madrid, speaks for itself, as it foresees a transformation of UNWTO into an organization for the entire tourism industry as it presents itself in the 21st century, democratizes it, and brings services to the member countries in the field rather than relying only on the functions of the UNWTO office in Spain. I was able to conduct an interview with Alain as the world was still in awe over his interviews at Sky News with Adam Boulton, with CNN’s Richard Quest, and then on the BBC Focus on Africa program, where he made a perfect case why he should be THE candidate for UNWTO’s top job. At that stage, something writers and journalists rarely do but which in my case was prompted by various developments, attributed to other candidates and a minute minority section of other travel media who broke protocol to start with by their partiality in reporting when they ditched journalistic principles of fairness and equality, I decided it is time that I too take a stand. Therefore, I now stand side by side with Alain St.Ange as I declare my support for his campaign and without inducements or promised favors, endorse him as my candidate for the upcoming UNWTO elections in May. And that is more than I can say about others who professed friendship when Alain held office and moved to greener pastures when, principled as he is, he resigned to run his own campaign without using his government’s hard-earned tourism revenues or neglecting his duty as a minister by being on the campaign trail for several months‘.
Mr. Ramu Pillay of The Indian Association of Seychelles said on his part: ‘We have worked closely with Alain St.Ange and together we created an event, the Seychelles-Indian Day Celebrations, to mark the Seychellois Indian parts played in the development of Seychelles. Minister St.Ange was a man of his word and was never shy to be echoing that Seychelles is a country where respect for everyone was the guiding principle. Right through his mandate, the minister said over and over again that in Seychelles, immaterial of the color of your skin, your religious belief, your political affiliation, with any form of disability you may have, and of your sexual preference, you remain a person and one who needs the respect of society. As a community, we were always so well received by Minister Alain St.Ange at his Ministerial Offices, and we always valued the respect with which he listened to our requests and proposals. A history wall of the first Indian settlers arriving in Seychelles has been erected at the National Cultural Centre because of the minister’s determination to see every branch making Seychelles the ‘Melting Pot of Cultures’ not only recognized, but also given the importance they deserved. We saw his annual Carnival International de Victoria bring nations from the Community of Nations to share this Melting Pot of Cultures event under the theme of ‘Friends of All and Enemies of None.’ Minister Alain St.Ange is a tourism personality who has passion and professionalism, and we, the Indian Community of Seychelles, has no reservation in endorsing him as the candidate for the post of Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, and we appeal to every patriotic Seychellois to join us to wish Minister St.Ange success on May 11, 2017‘.
Mr. Narasimhan Ramani of the Hindu Council of Seychelles on his part said: ‘The Hindu Council of Seychelles feels it, as a matter of pride and honor, to support Mr. Alain St.Ange to the position of the Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Mr. Alain St.Ange has the subject of tourism in the stream of his blood, and having been born on the island of La Digue that has the pride of owning the most beautiful beaches of the world as endorsed by many travel-related organizations in the world. Having served the Seychelles in various capacities in the tourism industry, he possesses in-depth knowledge of the pride, facts, and difficulties of the tourism sector. His invention of the concept of the Vanilla Islands to promote tourism in the Indian Ocean region, the Carnaval de Victoria, the Seychelles India Day, and the Seychelles China Day, to popularize Seychelles worldwide are the milestones of his career as the Minister of Tourism. Moreover, Mr. St.Ange is a man above the politics of color, creed, language, religion, and ethnicity and is being appreciated for his efforts to bring in together under one platform the people of various cultures and nationality for the good of the country. His participation as a lead and keynote speaker in various platforms across the world on the subject of tourism endorses the fact that he is the most suitable candidate for the post for which he is contesting for. His election to the post will bring pride not only for Seychelles, but also for our Indian Ocean region, the African continent, and the entire third-world countries. We, the members of the Hindu Council of Seychelles, endorse wholeheartedly the candidacy of Mr. Alain St.Ange‘.
Dr. K. Viveganandan, the President of the Melvin Jones Club and Lion’s Club of Seychelles, said: ‘The Lion’s Club of Seychelles says congratulations to a son of our islands to have had the courage to be a credible candidate for the May 2017 United Nations World Tourism Organization elections. Seychelles is proud to see our name listed alongside countries vying for the position of Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization. We have known Alain St.Ange, our former Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, and a member of the Seychelles Lion’s Club. His dedication to succeed for the country was always so evident. His passion for tourism was seen everywhere he moved and in every speech he delivered, and success for our tourism industry was the result of his passion. Lion’s Club Seychelles is today endorsing Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles candidate for Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, and we are at the same time appealing to the Lion’s Club International to also join us to endorse this competent tourism professional’.
The Lions Club of Kiev in the Ukraine has followed the example of the Seychelles Lion’s Club and is calling on their members to push the Seychelles candidacy for the post of Secretary General of the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization). The Lion Club members of these two clubs are also calling on members of the Executive Council of the UNWTO they know to express their support for Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles candidate.
This move by the Lion’s Club of Kiev in the Ukraine is interesting for St.Ange of the Seychelles, who has seen more European tourism institutions move forward to support him. Already endorsed by Fred W. Finn, the World’s Most Travelled Person as per the Guinness World Records and the Ambassador Honorable Representative of Georgian National Tourism Administration, St.Ange received during the ITB Tourism Trade Fair in Berlin, Germany, the support of Lela Krstevska of the Government of Macedonia’s Agency for Tourism.
Macedonia said that one of the main reasons for their endorsement of the Seychelles candidate was his immense experience and positive attitude, which they believe is really important in maintaining the high profile and respect that UNWTO has achieved in recent years, not only in the tourism industry but across a broader spectrum that will pitch UNWTO to a new position that will help to unify the industry. The Macedonia representative also said that the tourism industry provides rewarding and important employment opportunities for women in developed and developing countries and that this helps to provide women with economic independence and empowerment and strengths their position in society. ‘As a woman myself, I am convinced that Mr. St.Ange will help the gentler sex and will drive initiatives that improve the position of women even further. I would be more than happy to assist him with this‘ Lela Krstevska of Macedonia said.
On his part, Fred Finn, the World’s Most Travelled Person as per the Guinness World Records and the Ambassador Honorable Representative of Georgian National Tourism Administration, said in his endorsement that he had known Alain for 20 years or more from when he was in the hospitality industry in Seychelles, and that he had worked alongside this passionate man with vision. ‘I have been a follower of Alain’s career; his success is a tribute to his hard work. I have been delighted to write about him in OK Magazine, talked on TV shows, and in leading newspapers around the world to talk about Seychelles. Alain has inspired this love of Seychelles not only in me but so many around the world. I now list Seychelles, because of Alain’s interest in me all those years ago, as one on my favorite destinations in everything I write and talk about. I can think of no better person to become Secretary General of the UNWTO than this hardworking, dedicated, talented professional so that he may continue to succeed in his tourism visions on your much bigger stage‘ said Fred Finn.
From Europe, CONDOR, the German Airline of Germany, has also echoed support for St.Ange of the Seychelles. Dr. Jens Boyd, the Commercial Director Long Haul for Thomas Cook Group Airlines Condor Flugdienst GmbH, came out with his support for the Seychelles candidate Alain St.Ange for the post of Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Dr. Jens Boyd of Thomas Cook Group Airlines Condor wrote: ‘As a leading European Leisure Airlines Group, we are happy to share our experience in working with former Minister Alain St.Ange of the Seychelles, with whom we were able to successfully grow tourism flows from Central Europe to his home country, and to the Indian Ocean Islands in general. Alain has built an efficient national tourism board organization, established several events to draw global attention, and rallied all local agencies and interest groups behind the objective of bringing more tourists to Seychellois shores. The best tourist leaders are working along the same lines, and this certainly puts him in the top league by global comparison. What has set him apart from even that crowd in our eyes is an all-encompassing view to tourism development that does not stop at his own shores. Alain was actively promoting trips across multiple Indian Ocean Island nations or combinations with mainland Africa, seeing the benefits that a bigger Indian Ocean tourism can bring to all islands. The Vanilla Islands initiative is a pinnacle achievement in that respect, and with the help of Alain and that initiative, we were also able to increase our capacity to Mauritius. Furthermore, as direct air access is and remains a critical part to developing tourism, Alain was an attentive listener and driver of a new national air services regime that allowed not only us, but also other carriers, to build new air connections to the Seychelles. His willingness and ability to identify the critical issues, to discuss them with the various private and political parties, and to find mutually agreeable solutions in a broader context have set him apart from most other tourism leaders we work with. Not least his personality and energy were a key building stone in this success‘.
From Bulgaria, the ICCO President, Maxim Behar, on his part said that Alain St.Ange is the perfect candidate for Secretary General of UNWTO. ICCO, the largest public relations community in the world, having 48 countries from all continents with more than 3,000 firms, said: ‘I know Alain St.Ange as perfect professional who understands every single small detail in the tourism business, but also has a wide vision on the whole world and knows how to make this business much more efficient and result oriented. I fully agree with Alain that the tourism business must be much more united and to work for a better environment, and to emphasize on cultural heritage and specialized travels. But also, Alain is a great personality – he united not only businesses and countries, he united people and ideas, and this is one of his greatest advantages‘.
Johnny Rohregger, the “King of Travel from Germany” as he is known in the tourism and travel world has also come out to endorse Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles candidate for the position of Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). In a letter, the King of Travel writes: ‘With pleasure I think on the Seychelles which are stuck on your name. You have been and still are the best representative of your country. Charming and positive, you invite the world to visit the islands of Seychelles. I will never forget the hearty welcome on Denis Island with the red flower carpet – no wind allowed to blow it away, and the friendly laughing faces off your staff who gave a real feeling of welcoming. You continue many more surprises, and I don’t get tired to recommend your Denis Island in my traveling to friends and ex-clients. King Johnny goes further to add, success and luck, we recommend you on our side‘.
"Tourism for all" without discrimination was the message being pushed as GIHP, the important lobby group for the involvement of the physically handicapped of France who also threw their support behind Alain St.Ange for SG of the UNWTO. In the French city of Paris, Gilbert Lamory took time to address the press about discrimination in the world of tourism. Gilbert Lamory, the Vice President responsible for Development for GIHP (Groupement pour l’insertion des personnes Handicapees Physiques) of France said that a lot could still be done to respect those who are physically handicapped. Gilbert Lamory on behalf of the GIHP presented Alain St.Ange with a letter of endorsement, and also copies of the GIHP’s worldwide coordinated call for support for St.Ange. Mr. Lamory, who has been a for a number of years the advisor and instructor at the Federation National des Offices du Tourisme et Syndicats d’Initiative to push forward the plight of the handicapped, spoke with emotion to the press present at the presentation of the GIHP letter of endorsement to St.Ange. "There is still a lot to do in many countries for the handicapped persons to travel freely," he said, before adding that in 2017 the handicapped population of the world had the opportunity to help get someone elected to the post of Secretary General of the UNWTO who was particularly concerned of the concept of tourism for all. "In effect, the election of the new Secretary General of the UNWTO that will be taking place in May will have amongst the candidates Alain St.Ange, who is clearly concerned by the facilities available for those falling in the grouping of handicapped travelers," Gilbert Lamory said.
"Memo Planet" the French company promoting international tourism, also wrote to say that they were standing behind Seychelles candidate St.Ange for Secretary General of the UNWTO. "We have known Alain St.Ange as Minister responsible for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, and even before that when he only had the Tourism and Culture portfolios, and admired his passion for tourism. This is why, as a known tourism professional video company, we are writing to publicly endorse him as the candidate for Secretary General for the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Mr. St.Ange could never understand NO, and always wanted to find solutions. He believed in working beyond borders and coined many tag lines to attach the lndian Ocean Islands together and also these lovely islands with mainland Africa. We know, and many of my professional photographers share our views, that Alain St.Ange is so well suited for the United Nations position, which is why we are today endorsing him from the ‘tourism at large’ community," said Remi Voluer of My Lovely Planet.
The Lion’s Club of Kiev of Ukraine also came out. ‘On behalf of Kyiv Lions Club, it is my pleasure to endorse Alain St.Ange, former Minister of Tourism, Ports, Airports and Culture of Seychelles, for the position of Secretary General of UNWTO. Kyiv Lions Club is indebted to Alain St.Ange for his friendship to Ukraine, and to Kyiv Lions Club in particular, as with his involvement, Seychelles tourism has provided an invaluable contribution to our fundraising activities. His involvement has helped us raise money for many worthy causes, while at the same time bringing Seychelles to the notice of many in Ukraine. Those who have traveled to Seychelles have all come back full of praise for the tourism wonder that Alain St.Ange has built in Seychelles. His proven track record of uniting tourism, cultural understanding, and business with worthy causes shows a man of repute and sincerity, a person fit and proper to serve as Secretary General of UNWTO. On behalf of Kyiv Lions Club, I wish Alain St.Ange luck and look forward to welcoming him in Kyiv in his new role’ said Karen-Marie Kragelund, Kyiv Lions Club President in the Ukraine.
The Seychelles candidate has amassed a long list of endorsements from Africa, Asia, Europe, and from the rest of the world. ‘I prefer to let the world of tourism say what they think of me instead of me telling the world what I have done. The world at large knows that I have been a hands-on minister of tourism and delivered for this industry. It was not talk but action by a leader who remained a friend of the industry pushing for tourism for all without discrimination‘ said Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles candidate for SG of the UNWTO.