Seychelles Needs to Refocus on its Tourism Niche Markets

Victoria, Mahe (Seychelles) – August 28, 2017 (travelindex.com) – In Seychelles, we know that the economy is facing real challenges which will impact on the lives of the average citizen. As an island Nation, we remain dependent on tourism. A recent survey in Australia recently concluded that Travel Agents remain more relevant than ever for tourism. Travel Agents use Tour Operators’ published programs and their tourists are generally met and handled by a Destination Management Company (DMC).

Extracts from the edited notes by Peter Needham on the recent survey reveals:- Three quarters of Australian travelers view travel agents as a “trusted source of travel and safety advice” – a major increase over the 57% figure recorded in 2012. The findings, which derive from a survey conducted by travel insurer SureSave, also show that in 2017, “40% of Australians booked their last overseas leisure trip with a travel agent (either in-store, over the phone or via email)”.

“Travelers are still turning to agents for their travel booking and insurance needs, but not because they view agents as the default booking option,” Ross McDonald, SureSave’s general manager distribution commented, “They’re coming back to agents time and time again as they genuinely seek and value the level of knowledge and expertise that agents offer.”

Travelers are also becoming increasingly savvy about the intricacies of travel insurance, and in particular the “window of risk”, which identifies the earliest point at which a traveler is at risk of being out of pocket. In 2017, 53% of respondents purchased travel insurance “at the same time as booking their holiday”, in comparison to only 37% in 2012.

For Seychelles, it should never be forgotten that Tour Operators have been the faithful partners of the island’s tourism industry for decades, their printed programs proudly occupying many a shop window in key tourism source markets. This has helped to keep Seychelles visible and relevant as a tourism destination. The local agents of these Tour Operators, the DMCs on their part, continue to work with the Tourism Board to promote Seychelles products, making it a win-win for the country and local businesses.

Seychelles today needs to refocus on all of its tourism niche markets. The traditional niche markets of diving, sailing, fishing and bird watching must continue to be promoted. However, the time has come to boost and nurture the cruise tourism market in Seychelles. The port where tourists will disembark is the first experience the visitors will have of a given island; they will step onto the concrete slab, amid industrial containers, armed with their professional cameras, with nothing to take photographs of. Therefore, we must ensure our port is worthy of their scrutiny and attention. Moreover, with the town of Victoria abandoned by shopkeepers and businessmen after midday on Saturdays, and becoming a barren wasteland on Sundays, there is not much for tourists to see and do in the country’s capital on weekends. Local eateries are few and far between, and in terms of entertainment, the average tourist would have to travel to the other side of the island to engage in some water activities.

An example of a market which is yet to be tapped into is that of Casino Junkets. Casino operators would hire junketeers to fill a plane with qualified gamblers. These players would get free airfares, free hotel accommodations, free meals and free shows in exchange for their commitment to gamble a specific number of hours per day at an explicit average bet size. Casinos, of course, are operating on the assumption that the players would lose more than their out of pocket expenses for bringing, accommodating and feeding them.

Aquaculture in Seychelles?

As Seychelles looks for ways to grow its economy further, officials have steered towards the idea of Marine aquaculture (Mariculture). Mariculture refers to the culturing of marine species in sea pens, on the seafloor, or suspended in the water column or in on-land, man made systems such as ponds or tanks.

The concept is not new to Seychelles. In 1989, the Island Development Company (IDC) and the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB) established a prawn farm on the largest coralline island of Seychelles, Coetivy. The farm specifically cultured the Black Tiger Prawn, which is renowned globally for its exquisite taste. The operation was later abandoned in 2009 due to financial constraints, leaving the once beautiful island covered in concrete scars that are still apparent today.

There is also a currently operational black pearl oyster farm situated on Praslin, the second-most populated island of Seychelles. The farm was established in 1995, and produces the black lipped oyster and winged oyster specifically for the retailed jewelers market.

The newly emerging mariculture endeavor has identified four finned-fish species for the pilot project. They include the brown-marbled grouper, the iconic red emperor snapper, the mangrove snapper and the snub-nosed pompano. The fish produced will be almost exclusively for export and it is hoped that the industry will boast between 20,000 and 50,000 tonnes per annum.

Aquaculture brings with it several benefits (if it is done right). Mainly, it can reduce fishing pressure from wild stock. With the increasing demand for seafood globally, aquaculture produces a continuous food supply. This would be especially useful during the South-East Monsoon in Seychelles where fish stocks are limited due to rough seas. The industry can also create new job sectors, offering skilled opportunities in science and technology, thus expanding the local workforce.

Unfortunately, aquaculture also has significant environmental disadvantages. escapees may pose a threat to wild species. Cultured fish will most likely be reared from hatchlings and throughout time cause genetic dilution. If one of these fish escape into the wild and manages to breed with a wild specimen, drastic genetic loss may take place causing a disastrous rippling effect in nature. Furthermore, the methods that will be incorporated in Seychelles include floating pens. These pens allow for waste materials such as fecal matter and uneaten food scraps to be deposited on the seafloor which can be carried by sea currents towards neighbouring coral reefs, seagrass habitats and mangrove forests causing possible detriment to these vital ecosystems.

In addition this waste material can be the source of an emerging artificial food chain. Uneaten food may attract fish from the wild towards the pen, with it brings larger predators, such as sharks which may add an increased risk to swimmers. Other major environmental concerns include the use of a variety of chemicals, including antifoulants, pesticides, and antibiotics, which can have negative effects on marine ecosystems or even human health.

The relevant authorities in Seychelles had hosted several public consultations with international consultants of the project present to address any questions. I personally attended several of the meetings to gain an insight into the views of the public. It was made clear that the majority of the citizens present at the meetings were against the project altogether. Several concerns were raised, such as why local scientific expertise was not consulted in the development phase instead of relying solely on foreign consultants to decide the fate of the project? Another interesting point that was raised was why were more sustainable species, such as shellfish, not considered?

The major issue raised, however, was the fear of possible increase in shark activity. The consultants were quick to state that there is no scientific proof that shark frequency is increased with aquaculture pens. However, several scientific studies done around the world have demonstrated that sharks do in fact show increased activity in areas containing aquaculture pens, thus increasing risks to human attacks (e.g.,Galaz & de Maddalena 2004, NOAA 2005). Looking closer to Seychelles, a recent publication in the African Journal of Marine Science demonstrated the large bull sharks are showing high site fidelity to aquaculture pens around Reunion Island (Loiseau et al. 2016). Although shark attacks on humans are a rare occurrence, the fact remains that increased shark activity in coastal areas that are prominent swimming spots by tourists and locals are going to be put under greater risk.

Back in 2012, Seychelles was smeared over international media after there were two fatal shark attacks that occurred within weeks from each other, and in the same bay on Praslin Island. The cause of the attacks where most likely due to constant food disposal from yachts and other pleasure boats that frequently docked in the area. This theory was considered most likely by shark experts that were leading the investigation. These chumming activities may have altered large shark feeding behaviour, thus attracting them to the bay where the attacks happened. Could the aquaculture pens in Seychelles cause the same effect?

Although there is a great downside to aquaculture, all of these risks can be managed to a bare minimum if strict protocols are followed. Let us not forget that tourism remains the main pillar of the Seychelles Economy. Venturing into other avenues of economic growth may prove to be an even greater asset to Seychelles. However, one needs to question whether it is worth the risk.

Working with FORSEAA, the Forum of Small Medium Economic AFRICA ASEAN

Seychelles and Indonesia are set to cooperate even more than before through FORSEAA, the ‘Forum of Small Medium Economic AFRICA ASEAN’. My recent appointment as Deputy Secretary General of FORSEAA is set to consolidate the excellent ties already existing between the two countries.

FORSEAA is an intergovernmental forum founded by Seychelles and Indonesia with members from AFRICA and ASEAN countries, with its permanent secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia.

One of the FORSEAA programs is to achieve SME in Culture & Tourism by the active role of the host community to develop a compassionate destination, based on the diverse cultures of Indonesia. Specifically for small islands eco-tourism, FORSEAA will accelerate the cooperation between AFRICA ASEAN especially Seychelles and Indonesia by pairing the brand image of Seychelles in eco-marine tourism. FORSEAA is working to see from the world at large, how it can assist the many small pristine islands in Indonesia to contribute economically to Seychelles.

As the Deputy Secretary General at FORSEAA, we shall continue to organize for example the visit by youths and students from the Community of Nations to Kutai Kartanegara in East Kalimantan as part of its effort to help promote compassionate destinations of eco-culture in Indonesia

Seychelles Special Envoy for ASEAN, Mr. Nico Barito said the youth and students on previous such trips came from France, Netherlands, Japan, Liberia, Madagascar, Belgium, Dominican Republic, and Italy.

The initial 10 days itinerary provides the international youth with excursions to various local destinations of eco-culture as well as the opportunity to mingle with local people.

“The program gives economic benefits to local people, particularly homestay owners, restaurants, tourist guides, cultural activists, and handicraft traders and has offered local youths rare opportunities to interact with youths from other countries”, said Mrs Rita Widyasari, the Bupati (local premier) of Kutai Kartanegara.

Mrs Rita added that 2017 has been declared as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism by United Nations and Kutai Kartanegara is proud to participate and focus to promote tourists with the protection of the environment and culture and empowerment of women and youths as part of its program to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG).

The program which is coordinated through FORSEAA “Forum of Small Medium Economic AFRICA ASEAN” would continue to bring international tourists, especially youths who want to explore nature adventure and eco-culture in Indonesia, said Mr. Rega the program officer of FORSEAA in Indonesia.

He also said that FORSEAA will replicate the Kutai Kartanegara program for the development of culture tourism within other local governments of Indonesia.

“Developing tourist destinations is like the question of what comes first, the chicken or the egg. Our experience in Seychelles shows that when destinations are well promoted, tourists would come and the development of infrastructure and world class accommodation would follow suit,” Nico Barito said.

Seaweed harvesting begins in Seychelles

An innovative, new factory is today nearing completion on Praslin. This project is the brainchild of Benjamin Port Louis who is in his final year at James Cook University in Townsville in Australia. With the support of his father, Bernard Port Louis, he is constructing a new Seaweed harvesting business on Eve Island, Praslin.

They will be collecting washed up seaweed from the beaches surrounding the Inner islands, and processing it to extract the organic matter in liquid form. This seaweed liquid will be sold to agricultural farmers as fertiliser, and it is believed that it will increase crop yield by 25%. The factory is expected to produce up to 8000 litres of seaweed liquid per day, which will make it one of the largest producers of seaweed liquid in the world.

The promoters say that there will be no waste. While the liquid is extracted, the solid leftovers will be grounded to powder to produce soil conditioner. This promising endeavour has been endorsed by CSIRO, a leading establishment of research in Australia.

We spoke with the owner of the factory, Mr Bernard Port Louis who stated, “I am proud to say that Seaweed Seychelles Pty Ltd is 100 % Seychellois owned. Even our contractor, Mr. Barry Souffe was chosen to construct the factory”. Mr Port Louis went on to say that, “We believe in sustainable development for our islands and so decided to develop the factory accordingly. We installed a solar hot water system that can produce 4000 litres of hot water per day and we have also installed a 12 kilowatts photovoltaic Solar system to produce the electricity for the running of the factory.”

This establishment has been a long-awaited endeavour for the tourism Industry on Praslin. The accumulation of seaweed on some of the beaches has become a serious issue, posing a great challenge for hoteliers who have been trying to market Seychelles as having white sandy beaches, and crystal clear waters. This selling tool has been much to the disappointment of several visitors who experience smelly, seaweed-filled beaches throughout the South-East monsoon months in Seychelles. Therefore, many of the hoteliers on Praslin have described the seaweed factory as a blessing in disguise, and have promised to give the endeavour their full support. Mr. Alain Ah-Thion has been appointed the person who will be coordinating the collection of seaweed from the beaches of Praslin.

An Untapped Tourism Niche Market

The Seychelles is currently missing out on enormous revenue that can be obtained by globally established casinos. These casinos may bring in hoards of rich gamblers to our shores by providing flights, transport, accommodation in world-class resorts, and entertainment such as boat trips and island visits. Furthermore, these high rollers would spend large amounts of money on shopping and dining during their stay, further adding economic benefit. Also, as the saying goes ‘the odds are always in favour of the casino’. Not to discourage gambling, but statistics show that there is a greater chance of the money staying with the house, rather than leaving the house. With ‘the house’ being Seychelles in this instance, further economic benefit is established.

Countries like Macau and Monaco are known for their luxurious casinos, and almost exclusively economically built through the courting of high roller gamblers, also known as junket players. Junket players originated in the US many years ago in a ploy to build up the now famous city of Las Vegas. Casino operators in Las Vegas would hire ‘junketeers’ to fill a plane with qualified gamblers. These players would be treated to free airfares, hotel accommodations, meals and free shows in exchange for their commitment to gamble a specific number of hours per day at an explicit average bet size. The casinos assumed that the players would lose than what was invested to bring them to the tables, and most of the time they were right. Sooner or later, the junket player concept had become a global enterprise.

These players have expressed that they would love to be brought to the Seychelles to gamble and at the same time to enjoy the exotic tropical delights of our country, a combination they can rarely find elsewhere. Unfortunately current legislation prohibits local casinos from inviting them.

There is of course understandable concern about the possibility of money laundering with junket players and the lack of control if the financial transactions take place outside the Seychelles. In this context, it is very important to note that if these players are brought to Seychelles that authorities will need to regulate all the player cash transactions for a junket, and that these transactions only take place in the casino based in Seychelles. Legislation about junkets and their control also needs to be put in place beforehand.

The Seychelles tourism industry is presently missing a huge opportunity in bringing these high roller players to our country. We already have in place the excellent infrastructure with the hotels and resorts where any of these players would feel at home.

SADC Summit approves Comoros as new Member

The 37th Southern African Development Community-SADC Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government have welcomed the Union of Comoros as a new member of SADC.The inclusion of the Union now brings the number of member states of the region to 16.

The Comoros is a sovereign archipelago island nation located between North-Eastern Mozambique and North-Western Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Its capital is Moroni, on Grande Comore.

At 1,660 km2 (640 sq mi), the Comoros is the third-smallest African nation by area with a population of approximately 798,000 people. As a nation formed at a crossroads of different civilisations, the archipelago is noted for its diverse culture and history. It first inhabited by Bantu speakers who came from East Africa, supplemented by Arab and Austronesian immigration. The archipelago later became part of the French colonial empire in the 19th century before establishing independence in 1975.

The Comoros are also a member state of the African Union, Francophonie, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Arab League (of which it is the southernmost state, being the only member state of the Arab League with a tropical climate and also entirely within the Southern Hemisphere), the Indian Ocean Commission and the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands.

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