A new brand of Seychelles
Updated: 2011-03-28 07:59
A luxury marina property development in Seychelles. www.edenisland.sc
An innovative approach to sustainable tourism is paying dividends, local people are all on board
Celebrating its 40th anniversary this summer - when the first Boeing aircraft landed on the islands - the tourism industry and its related services is the lifeblood of the Seychelles economy, accounts for 75 percent of gross domestic product.
As testament to its importance, President Michel also carries the portfolio of tourism within his remit, privatizing the sector and creating public private partnerships across the board. This visionary move - and subsequent strategies - have paid off, with the country reporting a 12 percent growth in tourism last year.
As Alain St. Ange, CEO of Seychelles Tourism Board told InFocus Reports, "Because of the global crisis, our arrivals numbers were forecast to go down to minus 25 percent in 2009, which would have spelt disaster for the industry.
"But we set ourselves a good strategy and clawed back to minus 1 percent. We did this by implementing cooperation strategies with other African countries. I signed an agreement in South Africa with Cape Town's tourism agency to market ourselves together, offering safaris and shopping in Cape Town, followed by a relaxing stay in the Seychelles. I did the same with Kenya and then with Tanzania. This opened up the Far East and the Americas to the Seychelles. Twin-center holidays also mean you only pay taxes once."
To increase visibility, St. Ange also coined a tourism ambassador program to promote the islands to the rest of the world.
"We have 120 Seychellois in 23 countries, who use their respective community centers and press to talk about the Seychelles and how it is today."
Having recently launched the idea of the Seychelles brand for the island's tourism industry, the President, and Seychelles Tourism are repositioning the Seychelles as an affordable destination and getting all the islanders involved.
"This vision was the best announcement that could have been made," St. Ange said. "It will get the Seychellois involved in the industry, and when the people are involved, they will defend and protect it."
Foreign investors will of course be hugely important, he says, but "we need to bring the local people on board. We want the little man to feel like he can rent flippers on the beach, grill a fish or organize hikes in the mountains or bird watching in the woods."
The tourism head is also promoting packages between islands in the Indian Ocean region to strengthen the tourism product, and also attract more cruise ships to the area.
"We cannot cope with the floating cities, the ships that carry four to five thousand people, because we only have a small population," he says.
"We could however, accommodate the medium ships, of 1,500 cabins. We are ready; Mauritius wants it, Reunion wants it and Madagascar needs it. Together we could offer a cruise holiday destination that is really different. Tourists could enjoy a safari while parked off the East Coast, then do the Indian Ocean."
The recent introduction of an open sky policy will do much to improve arrival numbers and help achieve the target stated by Sherin Renaud of the Seychelles Investment Bureau of increasing the current tourism capacity from its current 150,000 to 300,000, although a huge injection of foreign investment is needed.
Gilbert Faure of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority, and Lt. Col. Andre D. Ciseau, CEO, the Seychelles Ports Authority both support the idea of promoting the region as an alternative to the Caribbean cruise routes and island-hopping destination. Victoria Port has already shown it readiness for increased cruise ship traffic, having won the World Traveler Award for best cruise ship port in 2008.
Expanding the infrastructure to attract Chinese visitors will be vital, however. Mr Yang, a Chinese travel operator based on in the Seychelles has suggested building casinos and high-end luxury shopping outlets to attract the clientele.
St. Ange said: "We are looking at different things to attract the Chinese market. We received two or three delegations from China last year and I have visited China with the President numerous times.
"China has been a friend of the Seychelles and has invested heavily here. The whole population knows how willingly China supports the Seychelles. We need to bring them here and get them to be part of the new Seychelles. We also have a small local Chinese population that is a powerhouse in itself. We now need to grow this market and diversify our business base."
Being a small country, with limited resources and outstanding natural beauty, the Seychellois government and people take environmental responsibilities very seriously, which, from a tourism perspective, sets the islands apart in terms of air and sea quality. "If we were an island full of factories, no one would come. You don't leave the smoke to come to smoke," St. Ange said.
"The air you take in here is clean, pure and fresh. We have the most pristine environment and we are safeguarding it," he noted.
Sustainability is, however, a key concern. In the late 1990s, the government reclaimed 15 islands at a cost of about $70 million, and earmarked two of them for five start developments.
Craig Heeger, director and CEO of the exclusive residential marina development, Eden Island, said: "We got involved in 2002 and 2003. A tender was put out to various parts of the world, and when my group was approached in South Africa, it was done on the basis of an up-market residential opportunity."
Located just a few hundred meters from the capital, Mah, Eden Island spans 56 hectares and hosts exclusive freehold title homes that can be accessed via more than 16 hectares of private waterways.
Properties for sale include one to three-bedroom apartments in blocks no higher than two stories, three to four-bedroomed duplex homes with private gardens, water or beach frontage, or spacious luxury villas of between two and six bedrooms apartments complete with private swimming pools and superior finishes and fittings. All are designed in the Creole Vernacular.
Exquisitely designed balconies and verandas provide homeowners with spectacular island and sea vistas.
Access is made easy through the Eden Island Marina, which is a deep-water, international marina capable of handling super yachts of up to 100 meters in length.
Eden Island-dwellers automatically qualify for a private mooring, while there is plenty of space in the marina for the craft of friends and guests. In addition, the international airport on Mah is a convenient 10-minute drive from the island.
Heeger said: "In phase one of the project, we have 320 units, of which 310 have been sold. In phase two, we have around 240 units that have recently been released for sale. The marina is very successful, the only one of note in the Indian Ocean."
Residents can enjoy three beaches, with another being created, and all modern conveniences within their unit. When complete, the commercial precinct will feature restaurants and bars, boutique shops, a supermarket and various service outlets.
They can navigate the island's sandy beaches using their Electrically Powered Vehicles (EPVs).
In addition, the island's proximity to other Seychelles jewels, such as La Digue, Praslin, Cerf and Ste Anne will make island-hopping a daily possibility. Golf and water sports are also available.
The resort was developed thanks to meticulous market research, with full attention given to working with the environment.
"We succeeded because there was pent-up demand for acquiring property on the Seychelles. In the space of a few weeks, we had a take-up of between 60 and 70 percent. We have added an average of 2.5 percent to the GDP year on year over the last four years and as such, the government takes us seriously, " Heegar said.
Homeowners are offered a variety of facilities that include a fully equipped gymnasium, several swimming pools, private beaches, landscaped public areas and gardens, and eateries.
"Eden Island is now more like a village and we are adapting it for the various markets. It is not a speculative entity anymore," Heeger said. "We have an established product that makes living here easy; an artificial environment within a beautiful landscape. We have the type of lifestyle that any nationality would buy into."
(China Daily 03/28/2011 page7)