There are few tourism ministers in Africa I know who have mastered their portfolio like Alain St.Ange has. Kenya’s Najib Balala was often cited as an example of a politician who knew what he was talking about and what he was doing until he fell foul of his dictatorial party leader for reminding him of democratic principles – and coming from the Kenya coast clearly had a positive impact here – but then again, Alain St.Ange is in a class of his own.
Born into a family which had both politics as well as tourism at its center, this clearly rubbed off on him.
A former member of parliament himself, he then worked in the private sector before the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association put him forward for appointment as Director of Tourism Marketing when the Seychelles Tourism Board underwent the much-needed restructuring in 2008/9, before then being appointed CEO of the organization and setting the course for one of the world’s most amazing marketing juggernauts, putting the archipelago on the world map.
His appointment as Minister for Tourism and Culture, having previously been an opposition member of parliament, is now seen as a masterstroke by President James Alix Michel, whose policy of opening political spaces, of broad-based inclusion, and of making the best use of Seychellois talent has helped to make tourism THE cornerstone of the country’s economy. More Seychellois than ever before now own or co-own tourism-related businesses, and more young Seychellois than ever before are receiving quality training at the Seychelles Tourism Academy, which also falls under the tourism portfolio.
Kitty Pope used her presence at the 4th edition of the Seychelles Carnival to talk to Alain St.Ange and here is some more of her interview and the answers:
USA & Seychelles – Kitty Pope of the African Diaspora Tourism in the USA caught up with Alain St.Ange,
the Seychelles Minister of Tourism, to complete her story on the Tourism Minister who can change the world.
Alain St.Ange, “Seychelles’ Iconic Native Son,” has grown up in Seychelles; St.Ange’s island home is very much a part of who he is, and he takes it with him everywhere he goes as he travels the world. He never neglects a chance to promote its beauty and other qualities to whomever he meets. Here he talks with Kitty J. Pope about Seychelles and his future plans to establish a boutique hotel on the island of La Digue after he retires from the Seychelles Ministry. The full report by Kitty Pope of the African Diaspora Tourism of the USA on the Seychelles Minister is published on the following website: www.alainstange.com
Why do you want your future hotel property to be located in La Digue?
St.Ange: I am a Diguois born and bred. La Digue Island has been my home, and it remains the island where my parents and grandparents are all enjoying their eternal peace. La Digue is also a key tourism island of the Seychelles, and that said, what a better place to then have a boutique hotel?
Has owning a boutique hotel always been one of your dreams from childhood or did you decide that this is what you wanted to do after you got involved in tourism as an adult?
St.Ange: I have always wanted to have my own small hotel, an establishment where my flair can be showcased. As a family, we have always been involved in the tourism industry. My father was a pioneer in the hospitality industry opening his “Cabanes Des Anges” Hotel right on the main beach of La Digue in 1972. This was but a year after Seychelles opened its International Airport. The time is now for me to set my own place and put my personal flair into the property.
I know that your father had an impact on your career as a tourism official. What are some of the things that you learned from your father that also could help you with hotel ownership?
St.Ange: My father did not study tourism, nor did he study hotel management, but he was a gifted tourism personality because the art of being a tourism personality was born in him. He was human and could relate to that industry that remains first and foremost a people’s industry. His joie de vive and jovial nature made him the perfect host. I saw my father working to establish his hotel when this industry was but in its infancy. I appreciated what he was doing and the passion with which he was managing his establishment. This is when I decided to move and follow my formal hotel training that was to be followed by a sales and marketing specialization course.
What do you want your legacy to be in the field of tourism and in Seychelles?
St.Ange: My only legacy can be what I have achieved for Seychelles. Today we are seen, and we are being counted as a tourism destination. The world of tourism speaks about Seychelles, because we are today relevant as a tourism destination. We have always had what is considered to be the ideal destination for holiday makers looking for the best of the best. But we kept this to ourselves as the country’s tag line of the past, “The Best Kept Secret.” Today, we are bolder in saying that we are a tourism destination, and we have put into place the mechanism to disseminate the necessary positive information to the world at large. We now need to continue this line of work as we consolidate for the long term, our industry that remains the pillar of our economy. This will be my legacy for our tourism industry and for Seychelles.
If you could envision Seychelles 50 years from now, what would you like to see?
St.Ange: I would like to see Seychelles as that tourism destination that has cared about itself. We are being seen today as being good custodians of what we have been blessed with as far as natural beauty, and I would love to see that undertaking continue. I would also like to see the bold statement we make as a country to get our people to work with us to claim back our tourism industry and to see more Seychellois involved in the industry that is the bread basket of their islands. Every Ministry of the Government must embrace this philosophy, as this is what will keep our tourism industry strong for the long term.
Alain St.Ange is a founding member of the ICTP (International Coalition of Tourism Partners) and sits on the Executive Council of the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization). For more information about Minister Alain St.Ange of the Seychelles visit: www.alainstange.com