Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister for Tourism & Culture, has addressed the 10th Routes Asia forum in Chengdu, China, as Seychelles readies itself to play host to the Routes Africa forum between July 8-10, 2012.
Manning a joint Seychelles Tourism Board-Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority stand at the forum, the Seychelles delegation, comprising the CEO of the Tourism Board, Elsia Grandcourt; Operations Manager for the Civil Aviation Authority, Wilfred Fock-Tave; SCAA’s Florence Marengo and the Tourism Board’s Glynn Burridge and Amy Michel, has been busy attracting business to Seychelles.
In his speech, Minister St.Ange raised Seychelles’ profile among the aviation community as the ideal gateway to Africa through the western Indian Ocean region, while showcasing the many attributes of Seychelles as a tourism destination. The text of his address appears below:
“I speak to you today as a representative of one of the smallest nations on Earth: the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 sparkling islands, largely untouched since the dawn of time, whose beauty is the stuff of legend.
“Situated between 4 and 10 degrees south of the equator, Seychelles consists of 43 towering granite islands, the oldest mid-oceanic granitic islands on the planet, and 72 low-lying reef islands, sand cays, and atolls, which extend like stepping stones towards the coast of neighboring Africa. We are indeed 1,000 miles from anywhere, but we are a million miles in terms of the tranquility, authenticity, and diversity of a Seychelles holiday experience.
“In October of last year, our Seychelles delegation made its first appearance at the Routes conference in Berlin where we saw the importance of the ‘golden triangle’– that of airlines, civil aviation, and the tourism authority – in our future approach to tourism.
“As a result, we bid to host the 2012 Routes Africa in which we were successful and are now poised to welcome delegates from the African aviation and tourism community to our islands for a Routes Africa conference scheduled for this coming July. Today, we are here to learn from you participants at Routes Asia, how this Routes conference works, and to incorporate what we learn into our formulation of our own upcoming Routes Africa conference in July in Seychelles.
“Because of what we are, and because of our ideal geographical location, we see ourselves as the ideal gateway to the African continent through the Indian Ocean region. Already our growing airlift has established Seychelles as ‘one stop from anywhere on the planet,’ with enviable connectivity, thanks to airlift from Emirates with twice daily flights; Qatar with daily flights; Etihad with daily frequencies through their new collaboration with the island’s national carrier, Air Seychelles; Ethiopian Airlines; Transaero; Kenya Airways; Blue Panorama; Condor; Air Austral and also, of course, our own national airline, Air Seychelles, which is enjoying a phase of dynamic restructuring in partnership with Etihad.
“Conveniently located at the center of the world, straddling the time zones of east and west, Seychelles is blessed with perpetual summer, a disease-free environment, and with no visas required by any visitor to our islands. Our tiny island nation, situated outside the cyclone belt, is blessed with a diverse ethnicity, and social, and political stability, that has molded it over many years into a place where harmony between people has become a natural way of life.
“Only 40 years ago, Seychelles did not even possess an airport. Access to the islands was by steamer, linking Africa and India with Seychelles. Her majesty the Queen Elizabeth II of England opened Seychelles International Airport on March 20, 1972, and today, as we prepare to join the Community of Nations to celebrate her Jubilee, we are proud of how far we have come since she opened our airport in 1972. However, we recognize that in today’s world, where dynamic change is the natural order of the day, no place on Earth can afford to be an island unto itself.
“We are living in a time that requires strong partnerships and strong synergies to prosper, and to even survive, and we believe that we are in a strong position to form such partnerships, because Seychelles has a lot to offer both as a destination in itself, and as the gateway, the safe and secure gateway, to Africa through the western Indian Ocean region.
“In a world where size and power does not automatically equate with efficiency, Seychelles prides itself, by virtue of its very smallness – only 455 sq. kilometers of land area and with a mere 87,000 population – of being the mouse that can go where an elephant cannot.
“Our airport, framed between majestic granite mountains and a crystal, sapphire ocean, is one of the smallest and most picturesque that you will find anywhere, and yet Seychelles controls 2.6 million square km of airspace. The innate connectivity of all players in Seychelles allows our airport to possess high standards of efficiency, and it possesses the enviable safety record of never having been witnessed to an accident.
“Upgrading the facilities, upgrading our amenities, and upgrading our capacity of this all-weather airport is an ongoing process, reflective of the importance of our tourism industry to the national economy. We constantly seek new ways to improve our efficiency, our flexibility, and those systems that will allow visitors to be speedily welcomed and processed, so that they can begin enjoying their vacation with the minimum of fuss and with minimum delay.
“We are keenly aware that the enhanced capacity of our civil aviation authority and the capacity of our airport is a major tool that will permit Seychelles to diversify into new markets, particularly in the east and in consequence, bring new visitors to our shores and to the African region.
“Already we have explored and we have developed partnerships with regional neighbors in Africa to promote the concept of twin-hub vacations. One example of this is our ‘From the Big Five to the Best Five’ campaign that allows visitors to sample the safari experience of Africa followed by the grand diversity and natural attributes of a beach holiday [in] Seychelles.
“We remain convinced that other, similar partnerships await with other destinations keen to tap into the enormous potential of Seychelles as a gateway to this largely untouched region of the world that has remained much as it ever was since the very dawn of time.
“We look forward to meeting with you through the various Routes forums so that we may explore the possibilities for future collaboration that makes this conference so very important to our industry. In July, we will we look forward to welcoming you to Seychelles for Routes Africa.”