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Seychelles public and private tourism sector joined together on Monday to analyze island's French market

Seychelles public and private tourism sector joined together on Monday to analyze island's French market ( Seychelles public and private sector joined together on Monday to analyze the island's French market. Visitor arrival figures from France stands at a minus 13% on a year-to-date when compared to the same period in 2013. Since January to August 2014, the figures are showing 21, 416 arrivals which is a drop of 13% when compared to the same period last year when it was 24, 658.

In August 2014, the arrivals figure dropped further from -1% to a -5%. Although lack of direct flights on the France-Seychelles route is being seen as the main factor for this drop, top French tour operators selling the destination for the past 35 years or so believe the French economic recession is also a main cause for this drop in visitor arrival numbers to long-haul destinations perceived to fall in the 'haut de gamme' [premium] bracket.

The Directors of Exotisme, Autral Lagon, and TUI France were in Seychelles at the invitation of the Tourism Board to discuss with trade partners and key decision makers why it was becoming difficult for them to sell Seychelles. The French tour operators explained that the island destination was sold in France as an expensive high-end tourism destination. Three Seychelles Ministers, St.Ange for Tourism and Culture, Morgan for Internal Affairs and Transport, and Laporte for Finance and Investment, shared the head table at the meeting with Sherin Naiken, the CEO of the Tourism Board; Bernadette Willemin, the Director for Europe for the Seychelles Tourism Board; Freddy Karkaria, the Chairman of the SHTA (Seychelles Hospitality&Tourism Association); Marco Francis, the Chairman of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce&Industries; Justin Gosling of Air Seychelles; and Denise Rassool of Emirates. The conference room at the Constance Ephelia Resort was full with members of the island's tourism private sector coming from hotels and resorts, car hires, taxis, and restaurants.

All three top French tour operators agreed global economic recession is changing the mindset of how holidaymakers are spending their money.

Holidaymakers are flying to cheaper destinations, flying shorter distances, and heading to tropical islands selling the same sun, seam and sand concept likes Seychelles.

Gilbert Gisneros, Director of Exotismes; Fabrice Bouillot, Director of TUI France; and Helion de Villeneuve, Director General Austral Lagoon; also unanimously agreed that unavailability of seats allocated to tour operators on the Seychelles route was also a real challenge. Helion de Villeneuve said airlines should reconsider allocations of more seats for the Seychelles-France route, especially during high season. “Early in the year we had demand for Seychelles but no seats to the hubs en route to Seychelles," Mr. De Villeneuve said.

The Seychelles products and the island's pricing policy were also put into question. The top French tour operators believe the time is right for the Seychelles to re-look at its products and see if the islands are offering value for money. Bernadette Willemin, the Director for Europe of Seychelles Tourism Board, said she is of the view that direct flights on the Seychelles-France route would increase the flow of traffic to Seychelles. However, she remains optimistic that the two weekly flights by Air Seychelles on the France-Seychelles route will be a positive boost for the market.

Opening the strategic meeting at the Constance Ephelia Resort, Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture, said the meeting will open a frank yet professional discussion, and it should paint a clear picture of the state of the French market for Seychelles. Minister St.Ange said the top French tour operators are all friends of the Seychelles, and it was only by listening to their concerns that Seychelles can better understand where the islands are going wrong and how to redress the situation.

‘’You are our friends. Be frank in your discussions. Speak your mind. It is only by listening to you, that we can correct our mistakes and reclaim our fair share of our French market,” Minister St.Ange said

Sherin Naiken, the Chief Executive Officer of the Seychelles Tourism Board, described the 13% drop in tourism arrival figures from the French market was alarming not only for the Seychelles Government but also for its trade partners.

“Having witnessed the drop by 13% in tourism arrival figures of our main market France has been alarming for not only for us at the Seychelles Tourism Board and at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, but it is also alarming for the tourism trade with whom we have been monitoring the arrival figures and trends very closely. This is despite our continuous marketing efforts to maintain the French market throughout this year," said Sherin Naiken.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Seychelles Tourism Board also spoke of new approaches to redress the market and bring about a positive growth.

“In July after our mid-year marketing review meeting, I strategically decided with the approval of our Board Members to shift marketing funds from some of our emerging markets to France to boost our marketing effort with the hope to pull the numbers back up. We have also been very supportive of the Air Seychelles new Paris flight, and a joint marketing plan was put up for September to December 2014. Nonetheless despite all efforts, the markets showed little signs of growth for the rest of the year as we monitor closely the forward booking for the rest of the year,” concluded Sherin Naiken, the Chief Executive Officer of the Seychelles Tourism Board.


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