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2014 - A stepping stone for the coming year in Seychelles

2014 - A stepping stone for the coming year in Seychelles (Forimmediaterelease.net) The year 2014 has been challenging for Ministry of Tourism and Culture, but at the same time it has been one whereby many achievements have been seen. We have seen airlines resuming their flights back to Seychelles, new tourism establishments opening their doors, new initiatives taken to address issues affecting our industry such as the multi-sectorial task force meeting, and not forgetting our Minister’s door-to-door visits to keep in touch with the new development in the tourism sector. Today, we take a trip down memory lane and review the successes and challenges of our tourism and culture arena.

Tourism department undergoes restructuring

The Ministry of Tourism and Culture started its year with a major restructuring of its tourism department with the aim of increasing productivity, ensuring high performance and service delivery and to allow the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) to focus on the country’s marketing strategy.

The Tourism department was divided into two divisions - Policy, Governance and International Cooperation division, responsible for policy formulation and implementation, good governance and ensuring that the vision of the government for the tourism industry is achieved. The second is the Standards and Regulations division mandated to ensure quality assurance in the tourism industry by assisting tourism businesses to strive and maintain desirable standards and offer value for money. This division constantly monitor, inspect and regulate all tourism businesses which include accommodation, catering, and maritime related activities to assist them to maintain and upgrade their standards in order to make their businesses more marketable. Due to the restructuring a new section called the Tourism Human Resource Development Section was included in the Department’s structure. One of the main constraints of the Department for the year 2014 was the inability to put into function this important section due to the unavailability of staff.

Attainments of the tourism department

During the year 2014, despite the many challenges, the Regulations Unit of the Standards and Regulations Division (SRD) has managed to complete monitoring visits of all tourism establishments and activities falling under their mandate. The certification unit on its side, has completed a review of the Seychelles Secrets Label, which is a brand grouping together small Seychellois holiday properties with the aim of maintaining a stock of high standard yet affordable accommodation for our visitors. With regards to the classification system, the certification unit is finalizing a complete review of the hotel grading criteria which has been benchmarked against international standards.

Another achievement of the division has been the successful recertification of three Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label (SSTL) certified hotels, which have managed to earn the 10% extra points from their last certification. This year, the tourism department has successfully reviewed all existing tourism policies so as to provide a more comprehensive guide to the operation and development of the industry. The need to review the policies was imperative as there needed to be an appropriate operating environment and platform to ensure that quality and standards are maintained to the satisfaction of the clientele and for the betterment of the tourism industry.

Arrival trend

Year 2014 was a volatile year for Seychelles tourism. Arrivals reached and exceeded last year’s mark only in September. However, October has been the strongest month on record for 2014 with 23,312 visitors, 197 more arrival than second best April. The figure is also the second highest monthly arrivals ever recorded after April 2013 which had 23,736 arrivals.

Top six generating markets in 2014

Arrivals from the top six markets summed up to approximately 44% of the tourists who visited Seychelles during this year. Europe still remains the source market generating 60% of the business.

For the first time, Germany has climbed at the top with 16% of the market share, while the French market strengthens its position in second place. Italy remains as the third producing market though it is still being threatened by a persistent decline in figure year on year.

Russia climbed in the fourth position on the ladder, followed very closely by the United Arab Emirates and in the sixth place is China.

Seychelles has managed to consolidate its tourism arrival figures from its traditional European markets and its new emerging ones, bringing the destination 1% above the 2013 arrival figures. This is despite the numerous challenges the industry had to face this year such as the loss of air connectivity from Emirates’ reduced flights as well the loss of Air Austral and Ethiopian airlines for certain period of the year together with the suspension of Qatar Airways.

The country has been the recipient of several awards by renowned destination magazine in the year 2014. Seychelles was named the Best International Destination for Relaxation at the Lonely Planet India Readers Travel Awards and in Conde Nast Traveller India as one of the best emerging destinations. Our islands have also received The Best Island Travel Destination award from Best Travel Media - one of the most influential tourism industrial media in China.

Mid-year and end of year marketing meeting

STB has held its two marketing meetings, one in the first half of the year and one at the end. The Marketing Strategy and Plans of the Board was again this year reviewed in the mid-year strategy meeting and amended as necessary at the end of year Marketing Meeting. This annual event continues to bring the private sector trade, airlines and the Tourism Board's Overseas Offices together with the Head Office Team to re-strategize to stop off the cuff ad-hoc calls for sales and marketing actions that often results in loss of focus instead of remaining on planned actions.

Following presentations by the heads of the various markets, trade members were able to voice out their concerns, put forward suggestions and learn more on these markets.

The heads of the tourism ministry have urged trade partners to promote the Seychellois culture in all its aspects at their respective tourism establishments.

China – Seychelles’ fastest growing market

China is the sixth tourism source market for Seychelles. The increase in visitors from China has been described by the STB as another success story. Minister St.Ange recently led a delegation there to pass on a clear message that Seychelles is Ebola-free, to erase the perception that the country sits on the African continent and to develop cooperation with the Chinese tourism sector.

The rapid growth of visitor arrivals is one of STB’s greatest achievements for 2014.

As the market keeps flourishing, the country is set to become a top source market for our islands.

A workshop was also recently organized for the local tourism trade to help them understand the market better so as to improve the experience that Chinese visitors have in Seychelles.

Flying back in our skies

This year we have witnessed the return of two airlines in our skies. The resumption of Air Austral’s flights to Seychelles has sent a positive message to the trade partners in our country; that business for small guest houses and hotels can eventually pick up.

Seychelles has also welcomed back one of Africa’s best airline, the Ethiopian Airlines as it resumed its weekly flights to our islands in September.

Ethiopian Airlines’ last flight landed at the international airport on March 1 this year while its first was on January 22, 2012.

Minister for Tourism and Culture Alain St.Ange said for the tourism industry, every airline that lands at our airport is a vital step for our main pillar of the economy.

He added that our industry depends on air access to make it work and that the return of these airlines shows confidence in our country as a destination, and that we are working to attract airlines back. Seychelles also welcome the increase in flights by Emirates to 14 per week, Air Seychelles and Etihad airways to Abu Dhabi from 10 to 13, and the increase by Kenya Airways to now 4 flights per week.

The tourism board has since then been working with all airlines through various joined marketing activities to further support these flights and is meeting Condor Airlines again at their Frankfurt Head Office in early March 2015 to help complete joint activities framework to help confirm the introduction of a second Condor flight to Seychelles at the end of 2015.

Improving the Seychelles Experience with the multi-sectoral meeting

With commitment to continue improving visitors’ experience, STB with the support of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture organized a series of multi-sector tourism meetings, to look at all the factors which are affecting the tourism industry.

This came about following a recommendation from the Board of Directors of the island's Tourism Board made to our Minister. A series of Inter-Ministerial Cross Sectorial Meetings were held under the Chairmanship of Vice President Danny Faure. These meetings proved beyond doubt to have been a success with the trade initially making the point that we need to start by counting the pennies for the pounds to look after themselves when they brought up simple points that had been having a negative effect on the industry. A series of recommendations were table for consideration by the Government.

This new initiative has been welcomed by the tourism sector as it helps to find immediate solutions to the problems faced by the hoteliers and people working in the tourism industry.

For the visitors, the experience starts when they first start planning their trip to our islands. It includes the information and booking process, their traveling experience to Seychelles, what happens when they first arrive here and the experience they have once they are here. The expectation is that these experiences will meet and hopefully exceed the promises made by the Seychelles Another World marketing campaign.

Several problems have been dealt with since the setting up of this task force in regards to the environment, health and giving our visitors value for their money.

The Seychelles Tourism Marketing Strategy has also been a key topic. Details of this strategy were presented during one of these meetings. President James Michel appointed three ministers to put this strategy into place.

The strategy will focus on key markets which have been identified and listed as well as promotional activities and approaches to be used.

Subios becomes the Seychelles’ Ocean Festival

The Seychelles Festival of the Sea commonly known as Subios has been given a new name and concept. Seychelles’ Ocean Festival will next year replace Subios as it celebrates its 25th anniversary next year.

One of the activities which the STB organized for this year’s festival was an exhibition at Eden Bleu to showcase the evolution of Subios since it started.

Seychelles’ Ocean Festival will be the ideal platform for our islands to showcase its underwater treasures.

During the launch of this year’s Subios at the Eden Bleu hotel, STB’s chief executive Sherin Naiken said the festival should remain a teacher of our marine world, especially to the younger generation.

Minister St.Ange has described this new move as a perfect marriage between the blue economy concept and our islands’ tourism.

The new festival is set to be more relevant to the islands’ niche market.

A look at the French market

Several strategies are being put into practice by the tourism authorities to address the worrying decrease in visitor arrivals from France, which has always been one of Seychelles’ top source markets.

Minister St.Ange was in Paris recently on a one-day working visit to meet French tour operators to announce details of Air Seychelles flights between the French capital and our islands. There he announced that the national airline will with immediate effect operate its two weekly flights between Paris and Seychelles, having only a technical stop in Abu Dhabi whereby passengers remain on board during the short stop. This was done to help mitigate the continued call for direct non-stop flight between Paris and Seychelles.

The 13% decrease (2014 vs. 2013) in visitor arrivals from the French market led the STB to take the initiative in inviting a group of top French tour operators currently selling our islands as a holiday destination to attend a meeting in Seychelles in mid-September this.

The meeting aimed to give the French operators and the local tourism authorities and trade partners the chance to discuss on the challenges, to come up with an action plan to increase the market share from France and to pave the way forward.

A lack of direct flights from France to Seychelles and the aftermath of the global economic recession, triggering a change in the mindset of holiday-markers on how to spend their money have also contributed to this decline on the French market.

A little something for the kids in the Carnival International de Victoria

This year’s Carnaval International de Victoria had a special touch to it with the introduction of the first-ever kiddies’ carnival on the last day.

The Seychelles Tourism Board teamed up with soca queen from Trinidad and Tobago Lima Calbio this year to organize this carnival for the kids.

Primary schools across the country took part and the best floats were then rewarded.

Keeping in touch with tourism trade partners

Minister St.Ange continued his visits to tourism establishments in the country, this year focusing on Praslin, where he went door to door visiting each one and speaking to the owners and management teams of the hotels, restaurants and guest houses. Accompanied by the other heads in the tourism department, STB and the Seychelles Tourism and Hospitality Association, Minister St.Ange commended the tourism establishment owners for bringing forth the creole culture in their activities organized for their clients, and for all they do to contribute towards the success of the tourism industry.

The visits also gave the tourism delegation the chance to know more about the challenges these establishments face.

Public Relations

Progress has been made in PR via the creation of a fully-fledged PR office. Today, the ministry of tourism and culture are able to reach an audience of 20,000 people and more everyday through its friendly Public relation strategy. Seychelles reached dozen of press and media house everyday on each markets with our press releases.

The Seychelles Tourism board has also been able to reach new audience through its Sesel sa! magazine which has established itself throughout 2014 as a magazine for the tourism trade. The magazine which is produced in collaboration with Paradise Promotion are today being distributed on all trade fairs, to all our outbound tour operators, in guests rooms of several hotel, the VIP lounges amongst many more places. The Tourism Board publication remains an avenue open to every tourism operator to use to touch visitors landing in Seychelles.

The Seychelles Tourism Academy

The first phase of the Seychelles Tourism Academy project was completed this year. In this first phase, two blocks have already been completed, with one catering for management students. This block has three classrooms, a computer room, and a library. The first phase of the project consists of the main classroom block, management block and library, language laboratory, and security guard house.

Tourism ministers pledge to achieve common goal in the Indian Ocean region

Tourism ministers from the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) met in Seychelles to attend the first tourism ministerial meeting of the organization. The meeting was held at Savoy Resort and Spa in November, where the ministers pledged to work together to promote the tourism industry in the Indian Ocean region. They approved and adopted the Seychelles Declaration, which affirms that all member states represented at the meeting have agreed to work together to achieve this common tourism goal.

Principal secretary for tourism Anne Lafortune said each country of the association have their own strategies and objectives for their tourism industry, but the IORA wants to help these countries to promote tourism as one goal.

The tourism ministerial meeting was being held under the theme - Tourism and Travel within the IORA.

Several recommendations were put forward during this meeting among which is for the Indian Ocean Rim Association to encourage member states to set up a joint working group on tourism and air transport to look into the challenges of connectivity and regulations and to come up with an appropriate model.

Culture Department set plans and targets achieved

During the year 2014, the Culture Department went through a challenging year, however, with the determination, perseverance, motivation and willingness of the staff many of the set plans and targets were achieved successfully.

As a team, the Department managed to put forth many projects and programs whereby in some areas the department is already bearing fruits of the Team's labor. Below are some of the Department of Culture's major achievements and challenges during 2014.

Quality Management System

Since the 1st quarter of 2014, the Culture Department put together a team to work on introducing the Quality Management System in the Department; this was to ensure better accountability, productivity and service delivery in the Department for internal and external clients which served on a daily basis. This is in line with (PPB) Public Performance based budgeting which the government is introducing in all Ministries.

Training

The Culture Department continued like every year to upgrade the qualification level of its entire staff. In 2014 two staff graduated as part of the Young Leaders program, and two senior management staff graduated with master degree in Cultural Heritage Management and Cultural Development. This is a continued effort by the Department to better equip staff with the right knowledge to deal with the growing demand in cultural issues on local and international levels.

Cultural and Arts Programs and activities

The Culture Department continues to invest a lot to ensure that culture gains its rightful place at the core of the country's development. Through several programs and activities, the Department has ensured that cultural manifestations and activities have taken place with mass participations. Activities such as Festival Kreol, Carnaval International de Victoria, Fet Afrik, La Francophonie Celebrations, Seychelles-China Day, Seychelles-India Day, SUBIOS -the Festival of the Sea has ensured the participation of the Seychellois public and foreigners alike, to celebrate the diversity and uniqueness of the island's vibrant and colorful culture. In so doing demonstrating the mosaic, originating from Europe, Asia and Africa, that has created the “Kreol Seselwa” which Seychelles is today.

The respect for our country's culture continues to be a big challenge. Many continue to talk and discuss the culture of Seychelles, but when the opportunity to support cultural based activities on display that needed support, they continued to be elusive. Culture in all its form remains an industry that really needs more recognition, because this industry (creative and performing) touches the population at large. Seychelles as a whole appreciated the Creole Band Kassav when they performed in Victoria for Festival Kreol 2014. They have become true ambassadors of the Creole Culture, this is one more reason why Seychelles needs to support the island's performing artists to enable them to earn international recognition and this is through continued participation and more performances on the international scene.

Two Senior Cultural officials from the Culture Department attended the Annual WIPO General meeting in Geneva as part of the preparation for the implementation of the Copyright Law. Assistance was obtained in the field of Creative Industries Management whereby Regional meeting related to the development and management of the Creative Industries was held in mid-December in Seychelles sponsored by (OIF) Organization Internationale de La Francophonie and (OCPA) Observatory of Cultural Policies in Africa.

Decentralization of Activities

In 2014 the Department of Culture listened and heard the wishes of the people echoed also through the inner island's MNAs, namely Praslin and La Digue for certain cultural activities to be organized on both islands. The Department took in the call and organized the 1st ever Praslin Arts & Culinary Fiesta which was a huge success. The Department also organized the 'Christmas with the Stars' for all the families on La Digue which was very much appreciated by the small community. This event and the 15th August Celebrations brought the Department of Culture working with the Tourism Board with two events on La Digue.

Staff Welfare and incentives

Staff Welfare remains the core value in the Department of Culture, and throughout 2014the Department has invested a lot in the welfare of its staff despite the challenges the Management was faced with. The Department has managed to successfully work on the long awaited Library scheme and on the Museum scheme which will be implemented in 2015.

Policies and Acts

The Culture Department worked on the Copyright Act which was enacted in August 2014, and currently the Department is in the process of finalizing the necessary regulations and setting up of the Copyright Office to ensure the proper implementation of the Act.

During 2014, Seychelles also saw the Kreol Institute becoming an entity under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture. The Act became into force in October 2014.

The Seychelles Heritage Scheme

The Seychelles Heritage Scheme Foundation in collaboration with the National Heritage Section in the Department of Culture was official launched in mid-2014. Restoration of rehabilitation work will start in early 2015 on some heritage buildings on Mahe and La Digue respectively.

In the aspect of preserving the island's heritage, the Department of Culture in collaboration with the Seychelles Heritage Foundation and CHAM (Chantier Historique et Architectures Medievals) of La Reunion worked on the restoration project of an old site at La Plaine St Andre.

Facilities for Artists

2014, saw the re-opening of the National Arts Gallery. This is a facility which the visual artists had been waiting for a long time. It was re-opened during the Festival Kreol 2014, with the National Arts Collections and with the Azais collection of historical personalities who contributed towards the shaping up of Seychelles.

The National Arts Council (NAC) this year initiated the 'think tank' debate amongst artists to share ideas, improve communication and work on a way forward on projects to develop the creative industries and improve the livelihood of the creative persons. It also carried out visited to artists on Mahe and Praslin to see their working environment, their impediment and areas where NAC can work with them for the betterment of the creative industry. National Arts Council had been active in assisting a number of artist for their various projects, be it exhibitions, show biz or production of CDs. In addition organizing training programs for artist in Business Administration, Marketing and Management, workshop in visual arts for young artist and school children. National Arts Council had been proactive in working with various associations, assisting to realize their various projects. In line with Arts development National Arts Council worked in close collaboration with various departments such as culture, Seychelles Tourism Board, Mayor of Victoria and National Day Committee. Another success project of was construction of Arts Kiosk to assist debut artists and staging of Arts Fair.

The Creative Industries and Events Agency (CINEA)

Lots of effort, energy and views had gone into the preparations of the setting up of the Creative Industries and Events Agency (CINEA). The preparation of the needed Bill is now in its final stage ready to be implemented in 2015. This new Agency will have the proper structure to develop the island's Creative Industries and facilitate the implementation of events and activities.

Challenges 2014

The eradication of 'fungus' at the National Archive and Library was one of the toughest challenges faced by the Department. This problem affected our staff, services and productivity. With a strong determined team, the Department of Culture managed to mitigate the situation and put in place a management system which is now working effectively.

The 'library book incident' was also one which should not have happened. Such an experience had enabled the Department of Culture to put into place more effective procedures to ensure that such incidents never re-occur.

Thank you

PSs and CEOs of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture would like to sincerely thank Minister St.Ange for being a good Minister and leader. They also would like to thank the Management staff and all the Directors of the sections for their continuous hard work and dedication during the year 2014. “A big thank you to the Staff of the Culture Department for their courage, determination, devotion and the willingness to move on despite obstacles" said PS Rose.

Sincere thanks National Arts Council, Lenstiti Kreol Enternasyonal, Seychelles Tourism Academy and Seychelles Heritage Foundation for their support and contributions rendered to the Ministry.

They would also like to say thank you to the other Ministries and entities and private companies which had contributed to the success of the Ministry.

Thank you to all the media houses and press for their involvement in disseminating news and information about the Ministry of Tourism and Culture. Last but not least, thank you to the people of Seychelles and all these who had supported the Ministry throughout 2014. On this note, we would like to wish you all a Happy New Year 2015. We sincerely believe that we will unite as a stronger team to embrace the coming of 2015 with more zeal, determination, commitment and passion for the betterment of Seychelles. Thank you all.

MEDIA CONTACT: seychellesupdatednews@googlemail.com

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