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St. Ange’s Indian Ocean tourism report

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Mr. Tony Williams, the senior vice president for Emirates Hotels & Resorts, the premier hospitality management division of Dubai-based Emirates Airline, has announced the appointment of Mr. Kris Seeboo as project manager for its Seychelles development which will be located at Mahe’s Cap Ternay.

The Cap Ternay Resort & Spa, the division’s third-conservation-based property, is currently in its detailed design phase, and is promising, according to Emirates Hotels & Resorts, to shape up as one of the Indian Oceans’ best resorts. The new resort is scheduled to open in 2010 and is expected to cost some US$253 million. It is the largest international investment by Emirates Hotels & Resorts, and is set to be one of the largest-ever in the Seychelles.

Mr. Kris Seeboo has over 10 years experience in the construction industry and over the past 18 years he has been involved in the hospitality sector, both as developer and general manager of several five-star Indian Ocean resorts. Mr. Seeboo’s experience in the management of Mauritian and Seychelles resorts has earned him a personal reputation in the industry. Mr. Seeboo will be remembered by many tourism and hospitality professionals for his work in Seychelles, where he spent five years as the managing director for the Beachcomber’s Sainte Anne Resort and contributing to the establishment of the Beachcomber’s hotel management and training school at the Reef Hotel on Mahe.

The Cap Ternay Resort & Spa will be located within a protected area of the main island Mahe and will uphold the Emirates Hotels & Resorts conservation practices and use of ecologically-sensitive designs in resort development; first initiated with the division’s flagship property, Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa in Dubai. Cap Ternay Resort & Spa is being marketed as another feral-free wildlife reserve, with its 60-acres protecting many species endemic to Seychelles. To date, the private resort islands of North, Fregate & Denis are confirmed to be feral-free.

The Cap Ternay Resort & Spa will feature two distinct areas spread over 22 acres of land. The main resort boasts 186 rooms planned for families and budget-conscious travelers, and 230 deluxe rooms designed as semi-detached, cottage-style complexes situated in landscaped beachfront locations.

A private resort area will feature 15 water-bungalows, the first of their kind in Seychelles, and 40 two-bedroom villas and a Presidential suite, each with a private pool and deck.

It has been confirmed from Mumbai by Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services that the republic of Seychelles’ foreign currency debt has been downgraded and signaled a further possible downgrade, after holders of the republic’s 54.75 million euros amortizing notes due 2011 noted their intention to accelerate payment as the republic has failed to make interest and principal payments due last July 1.
Standard & Poor’s lowered Seychelles’ foreign currency sovereign credit rating to “CCC/C” from “B/B” and placed the rating, along with the “B+” long-term local currency ratings, on negative watch.

Standard & Poor’s noted that the government has asserted that it did not pay debt service on the notes because of irregularities in the issuance approval process and a lack of transparency in the note documentation, which the agency has not yet reviewed. “The government’s actions also raise broader questions about its debt-management policies and heighten concerns about its capacity to service $230 million of rated global bonds,” the agency said.

The national carrier of Mauritius has announced that, while the current year’s profits have seen record high profits, prospects for 2009 will not be as successful. It was announced that next year’s profits could plummet by as much as 75 percent due to high fuel prices.

Air Mauritius has this year proudly announced record profits, amounting to 16 million euros in the fiscal year that ended in March. These 2007-08 results came out far higher than last year’s profit of 2.5 million euros. The year before Air Mauritius recorded a significant loss of 13.9 million euros.

“Air Mauritius is expecting to make an estimated profit of 16 million euros” this financial year, according to a press release from the airliner’s board. Final accounts have been submitted to the Air Mauritius Board for approval.

However, further prospects are bleak, Air Mauritius revealed. “Under prevailing market conditions and current fuel prices the company is estimating that it will make a profit of around 4 million euros for the next financial year,” the airline said. This represents a 75 percent decrease in profits for the upcoming year.

The Mauritian national airline has been expanding its services and airplane park during the last two years, after restructuring its ailing economy in 2006. With a new route to Bangalore, Air Mauritius is strengthening its customer basis beyond the traditional European tourism market.

Air Mauritius has seen increased competition on its lucrative routes connecting Europe and the Indian Ocean region; a traditional up-market tourist destination where travelers have accepted high flight prices. With the arrival of cheaper alternatives, Air Mauritius needed to engage in cost-cutting programs to be able to lower fares and continue to attract passengers.

Despite the increased customer basis, lower fares have made the airliner more exposed to increase fuel prices, cutting the profit range. Most of the airliner’s flights are long-distance, increasing risks, as fuel prices remain volatile.

Mauritius as a popular tourist destination continues to record a sustainable year-to-year growth in arrivals, averaging around 3-4 percent annually.

Air Mauritius has also announced that it has cut 3 percent of its total flights. This announcement was made in the Mauritian Parliament by the Tourism Minister Xavier Luc-Duval. This reduction of some 80 flights is believed will help Air Mauritius face the fuel price instability. The cut flights are mostly those that were experiencing load factors that were less that the set by the Company.

The Mauritian minister also said that the fuel surcharges announced by British Airways and Air France would not be enough to recover all the extra costs because some of the costs could not be passed on to the passengers.

Mauritius is prepared to spend more to remain visible on its main markets and necessary supplementary budgets are in place to ensure that visitor arrival numbers continue to increase.

It is now confirmed that the Comoros has been admitted as a full member of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). This was confirmed during the bank’s annual board meeting, held in Jeddah. The Comoros Islands has already been granted funding of several development projects and will receive aid to address the food prices crisis.

The Islamic Development Bank, which is the Muslim world’s premier multilateral financial institution, endorsed and approved the membership of two new member states, being Albania and Comoros. Both states are predominantly Muslim.

It was also revealed at that board meeting that some 26 least developed Muslim countries, most of them African, are to benefit from the landmark US$1.5 billion food initiative of the Islamic Development Bank that was announced. Under the five-year initiative, the Bank is to provide soft loans and grants to member countries to increase their agricultural production and make adequate stock of food grains.

The African beneficiaries of the food crisis initiative are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Mozambique, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, and Uganda. “This food initiative will be implemented immediately,” IDB president Ahmed Muhammad Ali told the press in Jeddah.

Comoros was also one of eight states receiving grants from the IDB’s Waqf Fund, which promotes Islamic communities and religious training worldwide. The fund was to spend US$200,000 on the provision of lab equipment and furniture for four secondary schools in Comoros.

President Marc Ravalomanana of Madagascar attended the last FAO summit in Rome to present his views on a way out of Africa’s food crisis, due to currently hiking food prices and global warming. In a six-point proposal, he told participants how Madagascar and Africa at large could achieve a “Green Revolution” within the framework of international free trade.

President Ravalomanana was one of the few leaders who addressed the FAO summit with concrete proposals on how to find a way out of the crisis spreading throughout Africa as consequence of skyrocketing food prices internationally.

The president of Madagascar said that his country was suffering because large parts of its crops were destroyed by a cyclone, further contributing to rising prices locally and creating widespread food insecurity. “I do not want that Madagascar is so economically dependent on the effects of cyclones,” the president said. “I want Madagascar reach a level of development that allows us to absorb external shocks in an efficient manner.”

Essentially, the solution was in increasing and diversifying the agricultural production of Madagascar, and of other food insecure countries. “We must find ways to become exporters rather than importers of foodstuffs. Prices immediately will drop by about 20 to 30 percent if we can achieve our goal of increasing agricultural productivity. Then, we can better absorb external shocks,” Mr. Ravalomanana said.

He presented a six-point list on how to achieve a Green Revolution. “First, we must strengthen the training of farmers,” he said, adding that his government this month was to open a new Institute for Peasants. “We will soon have information centers and advice for farmers in all 22 regions of Madagascar. But we need support and incentives for these farmers,” he added.

“Secondly, we must increase the yield per hectare using certified seed without being dependent on international seed producers,” he outlined. “We need to improve cultivation techniques and methods of irrigation. We must make effective use of fertilizers of better quality while preserving the environment.”

Thirdly, storage and infrastructure – especially port and airports – needed to be improved. “We need to develop a cold chain for producers at the ports or airports,” President Ravalomanana said.

The last three points addressed the need to get better access to export markets for African products. The Malagasy President said it was necessary to develop systems to standardize quality products and have certification standards in line with what exports are meeting in Europe, the US and Asia. Then, new products to meet international demand needed to be developed

Finally, to better reach export markets, it was necessary to “adopt new marketing strategies to better penetrate the domestic and international markets, and also create new markets for a better added value of our products. We must create new partnerships with industrialized countries which respect the Kyoto Protocol,” he said.

Commenting on his own proposal to “revive the Green Revolution in Africa,” Mr. Ravalomanana said, “These are some very pragmatic proposals. They are based on my strong belief that free markets and free trade are the basis of international trade, but also that we need comprehensive action and responsibilities shared by all actors.”

Concluding, President Ravalomanana criticized the great current focus on mineral and oil extraction in Africa. He said African countries should realise that they had more to offer that edible oils, minerals and cheap labor. “We should stop the looting of our natural and environmental resources. We should enhance the potential of our human resources. We should take better advantage of our wealth.”

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.