Tourism leaders strive to get tourism messages out that will make an impact. King Goya, the World Travel magazine of Kentish Town of the UK just published some key comments as Shaikha Mai Al-Khalifa surprised everyone in Bahrain when she gave away 200 passports covering 21 major and exotic attractions in Bahrain. But the tenacity of Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister of Tourism and Culture, who continues to stand out as a tourism leader, keeps on making his mark. His words were quoted by King Goya World Travel Magazine of the UK as is copied below. It is not as if words of many leaders were taken on, but those of Minister St.Ange taken from a recent address and also part of his message issued for World Tourism day 2015 were taken and republished.
Seychelles depends on tourism, the industry that has now become the pillar of these island’s economy. The big break for Seychelles happened when Minister St.Ange took over the tourism an worked at it in what he describes a public-private sector partnership approach. Today these mid-ocean islands are enjoying a 20% growth in visitor arrival numbers over the 2014 figures and a statement just released highlighted that Hilton Hotels in Seychelles (Hilton Northolme on Mahe, Hilton Labriz on Silhouette Island and the Double Tree Alamanda Hotel) have confirmed that 2016 is the year with their highest hotel occupancy figures with the best yield as well. Alain St.Ange has been described as a marketing guru. The extract from KING GOYA World Travel Magazine with quote from Minister Alain St.Ange:- Seychelles – ” When the fisherman goes fishing, there are many things he needs to do and choices he needs to make to ensure he brings some fish back home. He must have the right boat… the right equipment… the right crew, and he must go where the fish are. Otherwise, he will only return home empty-handed”. Those are the magic words of Alain St. Ange, Minister of Tourism & Culture in Seychelles, who confirmed in his message in World Tourism Day that “let us make tourism our business”. Countries around the world and United Nations members celebrated world tourism day on September 27. “One billion tourists, one billion opportunities”, is the theme for this year.
From a different angle Kitty J. Pope of U.S.A.’s African Diaspora Magazine wrote in their in-depth look at the one-of-a kind African Tourism Minister’s personality, leadership style, and accomplishments.
That “It was over four years ago that the Honorable Seychelles Minister of Tourism and Culture Alain St.Ange came up with the idea of organizing a huge carnival where nations from around the world could parade their cultures. With many countries already having their own unique carnivals, St.Ange envisioned an international carnival that would bring nations together in one setting to not only showcase their cultures, but also to help promote an understanding of multiculturalism. He went on to launch the Seychelles International Carnival where communities of nations get the opportunity to network and socialize in a relaxed atmosphere. The first of its kind, the carnival, which has grown every year, has come to be known as the “Carnival of Carnivals.”
St.Ange says that the carnival is a unique world event for bringing nations together where different cultures are respected as well as celebrated. “Even in the General Assembly of the United Nations when some world leaders stand to deliver their address, some delegates walk out, but here respect for everyone is and will remain the key to ties of friendship and togetherness,” he explains.
Supporting St.Ange’s view of the carnival, Canadian journalist Carol Perhudof said that she has come to believe that the “Carnaval International de Victoria” could help to change the world because it’s a celebration of every culture together. “The Seychelles Carnival is a brilliant tourism idea that helps bring us to a point where we can live in harmony beyond colour of skin, to live in peace with each other,” said Perehudoff, after her first visit for Seychelles Fourth International Carnival.
Through this “Carnival of Carnivals,” St.Ange has no doubt embarked on a global multicultural movement where people can capture the spirit of internationalism to gain a better understanding and appreciation of another country’s culture. Seychelles Carnival has captured the interest of leaders, tourism officials and travelers alike from the world over. As word spreads near and far among VIPs, media sources and curious tourists, the carnival has continued to get more popular each year. So just what is it about St.Ange that has allowed him to be able to successfully devise such an ingenious way to propel people and nations to come together under one accord?
For one thing, he has been dubbed a master marketer and promoter by Creole International Magazine, published in the UK, as he was able to turn around visitation numbers to substantially increase tourism arrivals in Seychelles. Implementing and forging forth the tourism portfolio set forth by President James Michel, St.Ange’s tourism approach and marketing methods have proven to be extremely effective, garnering him invitations from a host of countries and organizations that want to learn about the “Seychelles Tourism Brand” as a guide for replication.
One such organization that hosted him as a featured presenter is the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). Huge Riley, Secretary General for CTO was happy to have St.Ange to share his winning strategies for the organization’s State of the Industry Conference. “Minister St.Ange is well-known among tourism circles as a creative thinker and practitioner who is particularly skilled in helping to develop various countries’ tourism potential,” said Riley. At the conference, St.Ange topic was “Redefining the Role of National Tourist Offices,” where he spoke about the changing face of the tourism industry over the past 60 years and how tourism officials must be able to adjust.
St.Ange has been interviewed by top media sources and journalists trying to get a peek at what makes him tick. Noted CNN journalist Anita Mendiratta has sited Seychelles Minister Alain St.Ange as a shining example of how to move tourism, trade, investment, understanding and opportunity forward. She said that St.Ange reflects vision, creativity, leadership ability and agility which she believes are job requirements for the role of Ministers of Tourism. One of the things that St.Ange emphasized in the interview with her is how a tourism minister must be ready to be involved with local business interests, guiding local development, as well as international bodies and conferences. He believes this ensures that their country remains as visible as possible and in so doing remain relevant in the world of tourism.
Tony Vaughan of the South African magazine Property said that St.Ange entrance as a tourism official and the role that he played was very timely for Seychelles. He reported how St.Ange had defied the odds to bring tourism arrivals up during a time of economic downturn. St.Ange commented how Seychelles was defying the trend with visitor arrivals up year-on-year by 12% when he was interviewed a couple of years ago. “We must be the only destination in the world reporting such growth in this economic climate. Quite simply, we’ve transitioned from a government led sector to a privately led sector fully backed by government, we’ve let go of the reigns, we’ve allowed the private sector to take control of what is in their best interest, and it’s working. We’ve also launched the ‘Affordable Seychelles’ campaign to move the perception away from the idea that we only exist for the rich and famous,” he asid.
St.Ange has earned recognition for his work from countries as far away as China. The Chinese Xinhua News Agency labeled St.Ange as a “tourism guru” after his success in 2010 with a new tourism policy based on public-private partnership and the strategy of diversification of the island nation’s tourism source markets. Xihhua News reported that the good performance of the Seychelles tourism industry shows that this economic pillar of the archipelago has resisted shocks of global economic recession, or better still, the threat at that time to aerial transport by the Iceland volcanic ash. St.Ange explained that the new tourism policy of the Seychelles government was a win-win strategy where the state regulates the industry, while the private sector drives the industry.
On diversification, the tourism guru noted that the Seychelles had succeeded in moving away from its dependence on the traditional European market thanks to the aggressive work on the emerging markets. St.Ange said that their strategy has attracted increased number of visitors from such countries as South Africa, already the sixth source market for the Seychelles and also a hub for visitors from other countries, especially those from the United States. “There are also visitors from La Reunion, Kenya, India, and China, which constitute the emerging markets with great potential,” he explained.
Because of his outstanding work and proven leadership skills in tourism, St.Ange is a sought after-speaker and trainer whose tourism approaches have been studied around the African continent, and other various regions and countries. Always willing to share his knowledge, St.Ange could easily be labeled the “Minister of Tourism’s Minister of Tourism”. He has been elected to the Executive Council of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and travel officials and industry leaders from the four corners of the world are continuously taking note of his accomplishments. St.Ange is a strong believer that an effective marketing strategy is the tourism industry, its sectors and different regions collaborating and working together.
Because he believes unity and collaboration is so important, he has solicited the partnership of other Indian Ocean Islands and countries to help present the carnival. La Reunion was the first to agree to partner for the Carnival when La Reunion’s President of the Regional Council Didier Robert signed an MOU with St.Ange. Joining La Reunion as co-host of the 2014 International Carnival in Seychelles was Madagascar, Mayotte and South Africa KwaZulu Natal.
Acting on his belief in tourism partnering, in 2010 St.Ange spearheaded the launch of the Vanilla Islands Tourism Brand, a marketing concept that jointly promotes both the shared attractions of each member state, along with the factors that make each nation unique as a tourism product. As the inaugural president, St.Ange was at the head of this marketing concept along with tourism ministers from La Reunion, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros, Mayotte and more recently the Maldives.
President of the Regional Council of La Reunion Didier Robert, a key partner in launching the Vanilla Island concept, agrees with St.Ange that bridges can be built through the consolidation of common efforts. After St.Ange’s two terms at the head of the Regional Organisation, Robert has taken over as president. “The reinforcement of cooperation between our Indian Ocean Islands is fundamental for the development of our respective islands,” said Robert who has continued to build on his relationship with St.Ange in promoting Vanilla Islands and other initiatives.
St.Ange’s strong belief in promoting, partnering and collaboration is what is helping to make Seychelles a global player on the world stage. For one thing, under his administration, airline flights to and from Seychelles have increased fostering tourism development and international travel. His relationships with airline partners and other businesses outside of the tourism industry in Africa and internationally have helped to put the island on the global radar.
Commenting on St.Ange’s tourism tactics are Robert Desvaux, the former Chairman of Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority and Didier Robert, President of Vanilla Islands. Desvaux said, “Clever use of media contacts and a tireless dedication to promoting Seychelles through the media at any opportunity has paid enormous dividends and has helped bridge the information gap about the islands and place them squarely on the map.” Robert went on to explain that St.Ange knows how to tap into the power of his resources to spread the word about Seychelles across the globe, earning the islands increased publicity. “His promotion of events-based tourism and the resounding success of the carnival has propelled Seychelles onto center stage, winning extensive press coverage for his burgeoning suite of events,” said Robert.
St.Ange is also helping to raise the island’s profile through such organizations as the International Council of Tourism Partners, (ICTP), a grassroots tourism coalition of global destinations committed to quality service and green growth. Having helped launch the organization a few years ago, St.Ange and other member leaders are committed to the promotion of responsible tourism through ICTP. Another one of St.Ange efforts that has helped to stretch island nation beyond its borders is the International Creole Institute in Seychelles. Building on the mission of the former Creole Institute of Seychelles in developing and promoting Creole culture, St.Ange helped to launch the new institute over a year ago. He is now leading the institute in gaining an international status where it represents different Creole countries in the region and beyond.
As St.Ange takes Seychelles to the world, he is at the same time bringing the world to Seychelles as evident through the Seychelles Carnaval International de Victoria. In addition to the carnival, he has to host some ICTP meetings in Seychelles, and has managed to convene various other global meetings in its capital city of Victoria. He got the seventh “Routes Africa,” to come to Seychelles for its forum on key issues in African aviation where a record number of high ranking delegates attended. He also got the historic African Union (AU) Ministers of Tourism Meeting to be held in Seychelles, which was the “Meeting of the Ministerial Working Group on the Tourism Sector Development Strategy for Africa: AU Agenda 2063.” Each successful meeting or event that St.Ange has convened usually results in the call and preparation for another important one.
This has been especially true after the carnivals that seem to give birth to a new global conference, initiative, or event each year. The Vanilla Island marketing concept and the International Council of Tourism Partners were initiated shortly after the first Seychelles carnival in 2010. It was after the 2014 Seychelles Carnival that it was decided with a unanimous vote to hold the UNWTO Commision For Africa (CAF) Ministerial Meeting 2015 in Seychelles, after a call by St.Ange at the 2014 event in Angola. Also shortly after the 2014 carnival, it was confirmed that the 2014 Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Tourism and Travel Mart will take place in Seychelles, again thanks to St.Ange.
With tourism collaboration as one of his major platforms for strategic marketing, St.Ange has called for the creation of a comprehensive tourism brand for the entire African continent. His initial appeal for an African brand was supported by leaders at the African Union Ministerial working group meeting for the Africa AU Agenda 2063 held in Seychelles. Committed to enhancing Africa’s potential in tourism development through the African Union, St.Ange believes that the challenges felt and the rivalries on the continent can be seen with a fresh look when African States unite under an Africa Tourism Brand.
“The time is right and opportune for Africa to work with Africa,” explained St.Ange. “We Africans need to agree to grow our tourism cake together and that cake does not mean the African Union will be marketing our respective countries. We will always be the best in marketing our respective country, but the comprehensive Africa Tourism Brand will help increase our visibility and make us more relevant in the world of tourism,” he said. “The African continent needs an African brand that will promote our region in tourism trade fairs. We need a brand that will work hand in hand with United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) body,” said St.Ange.
A visionary leader with personal magnetism and far-reaching influence, St.Ange embodies some qualities of the greatest of world leaders. Like the late great Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the late world renown singer/activist John Lennon who both dreamed of world peace, St.Ange makes clear through his work and his speeches that he dreams of the day when the “world can live as one.” Because of his love for his country, Africa, humanity and the lengths that he will go to bring about harmony among races, St.Ange can also be likened to the late South African icon and former President Nelson Mandela. It is St.Ange’s strong desire to serve humanity that inspires him to give his all and all, and dedicate his entire life to his work just as Dr. King, Lennon and Mandela did.
Since he is such a respected friend of leaders around the world, you might have guessed that St.Ange is also a beloved figure among his own people in Seychelles. The staff of Seychelles Tourism Board seem to like and respect him, which is a reason why they are willing to put so much time and energy into their minister’s projects. Even the locals describe him as an approachable, down to earth man, who is quite comfortable in his own skin. Perhaps this helps to explain why he is friendly and comfortable with people from all walks of life.
The journalist from around the globe, who light up when talking about him, have concurred that he is a very likable tourism minister. Bea Broda, a noted broadcast personality from Toronto who also makes her home in California sees St.Ange as a man who is full of compassion. “It is obvious to me that the success of the carnival is because of St.Ange’s passion for people and Seychelles, and his desire to promote culture and tourism,” says Broda, who has attended every carnival since the first one.
What is it that Seychellois people, world leaders and others like so much about St.Ange? Perhaps the reason St.Ange is well-liked can be explained relative to an answer that former
U.S. President Bill Clinton gave when he was asked why black people liked him so much. Clinton said that he simply answered, “Because I like them.” Could this answer also be the magic bullet for St.Ange? He is a man who likes all types of people, period. No matter what creed, color, nationality, background or religious persuasion, St.Ange, a charismatic leader like Clinton, makes friends wherever he goes.
His passion for Seychelles and its people has been obvious through his work as the previous CEO of the tourism board and now as the Minister of Tourism. Under St.Ange’s leadership in both position, new endeavors have been put in place or enhanced. Three important programs he launched that have helped to raise the islands profile around the globe are “Friends of Press-Seychelles”, “Seychelles Tourism Ambassadors” and the “Seychelles Cultural Ambassador”. The building of a brand new Seychelles Tourism Academy is also showcasing the seriousness of Seychelles as a tourism destination wanting to see the Seychellois play a bigger role in the industry that remains the pillar of their economy.
Other Seychelles events held under St.Ange’s leadership in culture and tourism include Seychelles Festival of the Sea (SUBIOS), Eco-friendly Marathon, Festival Kreol, Fet Afrik, La Fet La Digue, the Seychelles Ball and the Miss Seychelles Beauty Pageant. Proud of the fact the Seychelles is a “Melting Pot of Cultures,” St.Ange believes that Seychelles can be an example of how different racial and ethnic groups can get along. He has continued to support and celebrate the cultural heritage of the groups of people that make up Seychelles.
St.Ange was instrumental in launching the first Seychelles-India Day celebrations which was followed by the first Seychelles-China Day celebrations. St.Ange proclaimed with delight, “Together with the Indian High Commissioner we are happy to announce the first Seychelles-India day celebrations. Seychelles French heritage is celebrated through La Francophonie Day with a dedicated French Day, and its ancestral bond with Africa is celebrated through FetAfrik annually on Africa Day. Who we are today is also annually celebrated through our Kreol Festival, but our historical ties with India and China had remained the two missing elements on our calendar of events,” he said.
St.Ange, a firm believer in preserving heritage sites, has proposed to the African Union to establish a tourism body within the union for an African Union Heritage Site label. While waiting for UNESCO to declare the slave ruins at Venn’s Town at Mission Lodge of Sans Soucis to be a World Heritage site, he introduced the idea of Africa having its own heritage site label. “We all go through the lengthy procedures for UNESCO’s recognition of sites we are committed to protect for generations to come. The time has come to work together to give recognition to sites we see are dear to us, to our people, and to our country,” said St.Ange. He explained that this site needed to be saved for future generations, because it was a facility with history of young African slaves, coming from all over Africa, who landed in Seychelles by British ships at the time that slavery was being abolished.
Not only does St.Ange care about preserving the people’s culture and heritage, he also cares about the Seychellois people on a more personal level. In one incident, St.Ange was invited by National Assembly member Derreck Samson to visit Danilo Albert, a prominent artist with a rare disease that confined him to a wheel chair. St.Ange went to the man’s home and upon looking at his paintings and artwork, said that his ministry will provide Danilo with sufficient materials for him to continue painting. “It is touching to see that despite your disease, you’ve taken it upon yourself to seek help to be able to contribute not only for the well-being of your family, but also to play a part to contribute to the economy of the country,” said St.Ange, the father of two adult daughters Christine and Michelle who lives in Australia. A supporter of families being independent, he believes that the role of tourism is also for the unification of the people of the destination through economic, social, environmental and ideological advancement and identity.
In addition to promoting tourism in terms of culture, another endeavor that he is developing and enhancing is sports tourism. And of course, he is using collaboration in his marketing plan. He has signed an MOU with Kirschlee Naidoo from Insane Fitness & Nutrition, Pretoria, South Africa with the aim of developing joint relationships in sports tourism as a niche market in South Africa. St.Ange believes that through the different marketing and promotion projects that Insane Fitness & Nutrition works on in South Africa, Seychelles would automatically be promoted. Mr Naidoo and St.Ange are also looking at a joint venture in promoting golf tourism to promote golf tournaments in South Africa and Praslin in Seychelles as well.
This hands on leader, who seems to do more than his share of legwork, believes in meeting people and situations where they are. This time literally, when he recently embarked on an innovative series of ‘door to door’ hotel visits to ensure that senior management teams understand the properties and its challenges as well as successes. Wanting to dedicate quality time with each hotel manager, St.Ange said. “It is time for us to break away from our traditional approaches of holding meetings with big groups of hotels. Sometimes personal meetings can help to understand the problems.” It was doing a personal “door to door” hotel visits that he met Esther Reimann, a rental property owner in Praslin who had been having a problem with a tenant about dogs. “Mr. St.Ange is such a fair and good man,” said Reimann, after the minister was able to resolve the problem in a way that was suitable to both parties.
Perhaps St.Ange’s ability to deal with people in such a positive way has roots in his family history. His father Karl St.Ange, a massive political figure during the early years of politics in Seychelles, was described by former President James Mancham as a man capable of meeting and discussing politics with Seychellois from all political spectrums who possessed a true ability to “humanize” politics in the mind of all involve. The latter St.Ange must have inherited a natural ability to effectively deal with people and a passion for his homeland from his father. St.Ange went on to study Hotel Management and Tourism in Germany and France before developing his career in hospitality in Seychelles.
His extensive career in hospitality and tourism, political upbringing, studying in Europe and working abroad in addition to his desire to serve people and his love for Seychelles have helped St.Ange to be so successful as the Minister of Tourism and Culture. His beliefs about tourism and culture being interrelated have also contributed to his success in this role. He says, “Tourism cannot exist without culture, because when culture is brought into the equation it is the people of the islands who are being recognized as the base for our tourism industry.” The author and co-author of now ten books related to the social, political and cultural aspects of Seychelles, he believes that putting the culture in the forefront brings depth to the destination. “When one’s culture is showcased we are putting our people at the center of our tourism development. The culture of a Nation resides in the heart and soul of its People as Mahatma Gandhi said,” says St.Ange over and over again.
His extensive experience along with his knowledge about culture and tourism is what has helped St.Ange to create such a successful carnival, now ranked as the fifth best carnival in the world after only four years in existence. The enormous success of the fourth carnival is due to his ability to build on the successes of the previous three carnivals. The 2014 Seychelles Carnaval International de Victoria, with twenty-six carnivals from around the world participating, has more than doubled in size and attendance, and was more colorful and explosive than ever. For the first time St.Ange included a children’s carnival because he supports the idea that endearing carnival in the hearts of children helps to guarantee that the event will go on for years to come. 2014 also saw the release of a new carnival song by Travis Julienne, Ole Ola en sel lavwa” a colorful vibrational tune about carnival time composed and sang by Travis Julienne.
As the world awaits the 2015 Seychelles Carnival, a clearer picture has emerged about the man who created it. One might wonder what his future goals are. A career in politics? Perhaps not. St.Ange’s legacy will probably remain in the tourism field. So what are his plans for the next carnival? Since we know more about the man who created it, and since it will be the carnival’s fifth anniversary, it is surely guaranteed to be bigger and even better, a not-to-miss event. But no matter how big and exciting the carnivals continue to become, it is St.Ange’s hope that the Seychelles Carnaval International de Victoria will eventually be seen as a symbol for world peace.
The essence of who St.Ange really is can be summed up in comparison to yet another great leader whose qualities he embodies: US President Barack Obama. It has been said that an asset of Obama is his keen ability to connect with, understand, and relate to people, which helped him to win the election. The same can be said of St.Ange, who also has a natural ability to influence people. Perhaps more importantly, just like President Obama, in the face of insurmountable odds, St.Ange is not afraid to set high goals, roll up his sleeve and say “Yes We Can.” Just like President Obama, St.Ange is a leader whose time has come for implementing ideas and agendas that will set new standards in the world. One thing for certain is that you can surely bet on St.Ange being able to deliver and get the job done.
The King Goya World Travel Magazine:
Bahrain: Cultural Passports
Shaikha Mai Al-Khalifa surprised all in Bahrain
Bahrain: Over one billion people cross international borders each year, it means there is more than one billion tourists. World Tourism Day was celebrated in Bahrain, and Shaikha Mai Al-Khalifa surprised them all as she gave away 200 passports covering 21 major and exotic tourist attractions of Bahrain.
Seychelles – ” When the fisherman goes fishing, there are many things he needs to do and choices he needs to make to ensure he brings some fish back home. He must have the right boat… the right equipment… the right crew, and he must go where the fish are. Otherwise, he will only return home empty-handed”. Those are the magic words of Alain St. Ange, Minister of Tourism & Culture in Seychelles, who confirmed in his message in World Tourism Day that “let us make tourism our business”. Countries around the world and United Nations members celebrated world tourism day on September 27. “One billion tourists, one billion opportunities”, is the theme for this year.
Bahrain – On the 29th of September, HE Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, head of Bahrain Authority for Culture & Antiquities welcomed a group of media, scholars of heritage and tourism to celebrate World Tourism Day. She surprised her audience and the media when the Cultural Tourism Passport sting unraveled. Her assistants gave away 200 passports covering 21 major tourist, heritage and archaeological attractions of Bahrain. The lucky recipient have to tour the 21 attractions and get an official stamp that they fulfilled the assignment till the end of November 2015.Fortunate winners will receive a tour package to an exotic tourist destination. This touch of class will definitely promote inbound & outbound travel to Bahrain.
A’ALI BURAIL MOUNDS – this world heritage site is considered the largest prehistoric necropolis in the region. Since the 3rd millennium BC and dating back to Dilmun & Tylos periods, families of influential deceased from Babylonia (present day Iraq) sought to have their interment in the sacred burial site. In ancient times and according to mythology today’s Bahrain was visualized as Eden and regarded as eternal paradise where wolves and sheep peacefully mingle together!
Prosperity – In another challenging arena David Scowsill, President of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), stated that: “Travel and tourism is a sector which collectively contributes nearly 10% of the world’s GDP and one in 11 of all jobs on the planet. Over one billion people cross international borders each year, a number expected to reach 1.8 billion by 2030, while at the same time, billions more travel domestically.
Bahamas – “The tourism industry is catalytic in nature as it profoundly impacts every sector of the economy, from food and entertainment to the environment, culture and heritage”. I really like this genuine statement of O. Wilchcombe, Bahamas Tourism Minister. These colorful stories represent travel status in three corners of the world; The Indian Ocean, Arabian Gulf and the Caribbean. Insightful, creative and down to earth. We must be living the Age of Aquarius with great expectations and unforeseen anticipations.
Seychelles is a founding member of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP) . For more information on Seychelles Minister of Tourism and Culture Alain St.Ange, click here.