Welcome to this latest issue of our industry’s mouth piece.
The State of the Nation Address by President James Michel has come and gone and we are left trying to find ourselves in the new environment and finding the way forward for our industry.
The first major drawback is the new bureaucracy in recruitment of needed staff to manage and to make our respective properties work for our country’s economy. After years of cumbersome bureaucracy, Vice President Danny Faure had led a committee to bring order in a chaotic situation where resorts were just unable to operate and some even were pushed to close speciality restaurants due to lack of necessary staff. The new system based on a quota system has worked well and tourism, the pillar of the Seychelles economy had found a new way forward. But now all seems to be heading back to the era of days gone by. Work permit applications are being refused even when it falls in the agreed quota set by the committee chaired by Vice President Faure. It is now the Department of Labour who decides who a hotel should employ. They have become Managing Directors of our properties. This is a sad turnaround and it will spell disaster for the industry we have all worked hard to get back on its feet.
The second challenge before us is cost of operation which continues to escalate. The two new taxes, even when we are told it is only .05% remains added costs and is doing a lot in pushing Seychelles to be overpriced when compared to its competitors. We cannot understand why we are trying to shoot ourselves in the foot. Hotels in our country are not competing against each other, but instead with resorts in the region. Yes we needed a bigger marketing budget, but just milking us is asking us to increase our prices and in so doing make a Seychelles Holiday package more expensive. These new Social Responsibility Tax and Marketing Tax come over and above higher electricity and water bills and the new VAT. No one will be able to point the finger at SHTA when the bubble eventually bursts.
The third sad challenge is our country’s inability to do what it says. We heard Air Seychelles complimenting the Civil Aviation Authority for the opening of our airspace when the new strategy meeting took place recently. This statement remains a stated policy on paper only, and it remains a policy that sounds good and that gives a good impression to the outside world. In reality we are being over restrictive with our air policy and that at the detriment of our tourism industry. Recently, The People newspaper reported that Turkish Airline was starting flights to Mauritius . This great and popular airline applied to fly to Seychelles before it applied to land in Mauritius. We are still playing with the paperwork whereas Mauritius has grabbed the bull by its horns and ran to issue the necessary permits. The industry fails to understand this, especially when we know that a direct flight from Europe is what we need today. That direct overnight flight is the request by tour operators, travel agents, our repeat guests and all families wanting to still promote Seychelles and to come to Seychelles for a holiday.
Mr Cramer Ball, this should show you that we have not opened our airspace as you would want us to believe. There is another case worth mentioning in this same line of opening our airspace. Mega Maldivian Airline has looked at Seychelles for a flight that would link Maldives to Mauritius via Seychelles. Whatever happened to that great possibility remains a mystery, but this week Mauritius and Maldives announced their cooperation for direct flights using Mega Maldivian airline.
We all know that this Maldives airline flies a large number of direct flights from Maldives to mainland China. Now Mauritius will benefit of twin center holiday possibilities with Maldives at our expense. As Seychelles loses out, Mauritius is being helped consolidate its tourism industry.
The sad reality is we are still making the mistake of protectionism with a view of helping Air Seychelles, but this at the detriment of the Seychelles economy. Seychelles owns 100% of its economy, and Seychelles owns but 60% of Air Seychelles . This our Government should never forget…
Marketing of Seychelles and the grumbling inside the STB is being spoken about as well as the staff exodus. What has gone wrong is not known, but we need to just restate that we made a proposition to the President on the revamping of the whole tourism department about a year ago when we saw the duplication of a confusing situation when a Ministry of Tourism was created. This proposal was made after a Board meeting of the SHTA as we felt we were well placed to voice our concern and propose a way forward.
Another point of concern to industry players is the way we communicate our problems. We have had too many recently for a beautiful country like Seychelles, hungry for tourists
- Battling Somali pirates in Seychelles
- Seychelles has a dengue fever outbreak
- Seychelles suffers with floods and landslide
All these did no good to our tourism industry. It would appear we are eager to tell the world that all is not well in Seychelles without considering its negative impact on the tourism industry.
Finally on a positive note, our arrival numbers are holding up but we shall continue to battle with the yield until we increase our visitor arrival numbers to settle our supply & demand issue. As we gave permission to build new hotels, we needed to increase air lines to Seychelles. Increasing our arrival numbers will enable everyone to find themselves and increase our rates to be in line with our individual standard.
Have a good month,