In love… with selling Seychelles!

An air hostess who fell in love with Seychelles during a friend’s island wedding, wants to make her luxury holiday business the number one outlet for bookings on the island nation, writes Hajira Amla of the Seychelles News Agency (SNA).

It’s not often you hear of stories like Christine Kimbrell’s, who attended a wedding in Seychelles and then followed a newly-hatched dream. She is now the owner of the travel agency, SeyExclusive, based in Lincoln, United Kingdom.

“I am an entrepreneur at heart, and I wanted to do something with travel,” Kimbrell said. “I had been to the Seychelles for a friend’s wedding, met her brother, and we ended up getting engaged and married in the Seychelles. I enjoyed booking all my friends and family holidays, and this is what I really wanted to do.”

SeyExclusive has steadily made a profit every year since starting off in 2006. So far this year, the company has made £2.5 million (about $3.3 million) in turnover, projected to grow to £3 million (almost $4 million) by the end of 2016, according to a story in local UK newspaper The Lincolnite.

Christine Kimbrell, the owner of the travel agency SeyExclusive based in Lincoln, United Kingdom, which focuses on promoting exclusive packages for Seychelles, although she recently decided to expand her service offering to include Mauritius and Maldives as well. / Photo: Christine Kimbrell

Footprints in the sand

For Kimbrell, who worked as cabin crew member for British Airways and United Airlines for 16 years, it was a logical but daunting career change.

After having her first child, Kimbrell decided to start her business while on maternity leave. Intrigued by the beauty of the network of 115 granitic and coralline islands dotted throughout the western Indian Ocean and still basking in the glow of her romantic wedding in the islands, she decided to focus on promoting exclusive packages for Seychelles, although she recently decided to expand her service offering to include Mauritius and Maldives as well.

Now a single mother to two children, the eldest of which has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism, Kimbrell admits that her journey to building her business was not at all easy.

“Life is getting easier as they are getting older, but they’re extremely supportive and understand why I work so hard and that I do it all for them,” she said.

“We haven’t had a complaint in 10 years.”

Although the lack of direct flights from the UK and high prices can be a disadvantage when promoting package holidays to the Seychelles, Kimbrell says the company’s passion for the destination makes it an easier sell, adding that the Seychelles Tourism Board is always on hand to help them with promotions and assisting travel bloggers to visit the islands.

And even though SeyExclusive may never be a travel giant to compete with the likes of Thomas Cook, Kimbrell believes she has found a perfect niche.

“The service we offer before you book, during, and after can’t be compared to the larger operators. We are fully invested in making each trip special, unique, and memorable,” she said.

“We have the inside knowledge on room locations, types, rates, special offers, and we are above all extremely honest. If a hotel isn’t performing, it is cut from the pack immediately until we can get one of the sales team to review the hotel. We haven’t had a complaint in 10 years and I never want one.”

The people, the food, the beaches, and the way of life of the islanders are things Kimbrell says she loves about Seychelles. / Photo: Gerard Larose, Seychelles Tourism Board

Passionate about promoting Seychelles

For Kimbrell, her understanding and love of Seychelles extends far beyond the usual tourist sphere of sun, sand, and sea; it seems to be something embedded in the fiber of her being.

“[Seychelles is] my second home. The moment I get off the flight and inhale the coconut tree smell, it just excites me every time,” she said, reeling off a long list of very evocative mental images, such as the perfect beach at Intendance, taking an adventurous bicycle ride on La Digue, watching dogs playing in the sea, and the noise of wildlife and birds everywhere.

Kimbrell rattles off an impressive list of why she loves Seychelles: “The people who are so warm and friendly yet timid and shy. The beaches, the breath-taking million dollar views from the road side. The crazy exciting driving. The fresh, delicious, mouth-watering food. Parties on a Sunday with the locals on the beach. Fishing and beer and sun downers. Tropical fruit. The storms which pass as soon as they arrive. The noise on the tin roofs and sitting on the balconies. The octopus curry that melts in your mouth. The plastic chairs at road-side restaurants. The feeling of being safe when out and about. Sailing and scuba diving with rays, turtles, and whale sharks. The turquoise waters that never disappoint.”