At the recently held ITB Berlin travel trade fair this month, Alain St. Ange, Seychellois tourism expert and former President of the African Tourism Board (ATB), Vice President of the World Tourism Network, former Minister of Tourism of Seychelles and former parliamentarian, received a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Alain St. Ange alongside Jamaica’s tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, were both awarded the honours for their sterling roles in the promotion of tourism by the Pacific Area Travel Writers Association (PATWA) International Travel Awards, which takes place annually at ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism fair.
The Seychelles News Agency caught up with St. Ange to reflect on his lifetime’s work in Seychelles’ tourism and hear his views on the current situation of the industry.
SNA: What does receiving the “Lifetime Achievement for the Promotion of Travel” Award mean for you?
Alain St. Ange: Recognition is always rewarding. Being singled out alongside Edmund Bartlett, the current tourism minister of Jamaica this time, for our successful lifelong journey in tourism, and for our continued innovation in destination marketing and for our ability on the world stage to position one’s respective country as a successful tourism destination is of course a good feeling.
This is not my first recognition award, but each time I receive one I feel good, I feel honoured and I say thank you. Recently a local daily newspaper referred to me as “the most tourified tourism minister in and outside Seychelles”. That was a great title for my work for Seychelles. It was a great title from Seychelles by Seychelles and for work done for Seychelles.
The recent recognition at the 2023 ITB Tourism Trade Fair in Berlin in Germany only confirmed that my efforts and dedication to Seychelles tourism had been recognised.
SNA: How long have you worked in the tourism industry?
ASA: I have worked in tourism all my working life. From very early in the 1980s, after my studies in hotel management and after in marketing and sales, I joined the local hospitality and tourism industry. I remained in that same industry, working also in the Channel Islands and Australia, before returning to Seychelles where I continued actively working in tourism until my retirement from public life in 2020.
SNA: What have been your most remarkable achievements?
ASA: The tagging of Seychelles’ sun, sea and sand as unique selling points to an events-based destination was a success because this brought the island’s culture and its people of Seychelles into the frontline of tourism.
Our cultural activities like Festival Kreol were given a bigger impetus but also celebrations of the different branches of what makes the multi-racial Seychelles the rainbow people we are. The recognition of the La Fête de La Francophonie to make the link with France and the French language, the Commonwealth Day to touch our link with Great Britain and the English language, the Fet Afrik, China and India Day Celebrations to mark these groups who helped make Seychelles the diversity mix we have.
These five celebrations culminated in the cultural feasts of feasts, our Festival Kreol which is the celebration of the proud Seychellois people we are.
Then we looked also at how to use events to move the tourism industry forward and here SUBIOS, the Festival of the Sea, and the Praslin Culinary and Arts Festival took the Blue Economy and Praslin into new dimensions. Finally, it was the six editions of the ‘Carnaval International de Victoria’ that had become known as the Carnival of Carnivals because it was the only carnival that sought the participation of existing carnivals.
This was increased visibility for Seychelles on the world stage as never seen before. This event was also a way to say thank you to each and every Seychellois for all their work to keep Seychelles moving forward. This was an achievement, yes, but also the marketing of Seychelles, through the Tourism Board, to the private sector trade and the Government paid for it.
The front-line team is always directly affected when the industry does not work. The front-line team is the private sector and bringing them at the centre of the country’s decision-making process was a major step to success. Others included the welcoming of hundreds of small tourism establishments as licensed operators after due inspections enabling them to pay their fees and taxes for beds sold. This exercise culminated in developing an upgraded and modern Hotel and Tourism School to help train our very own Seychellois to be better at the job they all so wanted for our Seychelles.
SNA: You have been involved in many facets of the tourism industry. How has that helped in getting you where you are today?
ASA: The experience gathered after all my years in the industry has given me the confidence to stand and talk about Seychelles tourism and about tourism in general. Seychellois in the industry work, not just for a salary, but with their heart. It is their country and Seychellois do that work with passion and with their heart. The different roles and positions I worked in gave me the connections and helped to develop the needed friendship in this tourism fraternity called the ‘World of Tourism’. It never happens overnight. It takes years but once recognised, the friendship remains solid always.
SNA: You are now involved in many tourism activities internationally. Tell us more about them.
ASA: During my years as director of marketing and after as CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board and as Minister responsible for Tourism I led the Seychelles team to tourism and travel trade fairs. These were direct activities where your presence sends the direct message of a destination willing and able to receive discerning travellers.
After resigning from government services, I launched my very own ‘Saint Ange Tourism Consultancy’ which has taken me to different parts of the world working with tourism boards, tourism ministers, or private sector groupings to bring my expertise after hearing their challenges.
I worked in Indonesia, all over Indonesia actually, did conferences in Winnipeg in Canada and aviation meetings in Uganda and now I am working with Ghana advising their tourism minister. I am kept busy, and I am happy.
SNA: How do you find the tourism industry in Seychelles today?
ASA: Tourism as an industry is centered on the ones running the industry. Everyone has his or her style and maneuvers accordingly to find the best-suited approach for them. This is working in Seychelles. Can it do better? Yes, it can always do better.
But to get a better destination and a more buoyant tourism industry we have, as a country, to appreciate what is our destination. It is definitely not only the hotels and the DMCs [destination management companies]; it is the country as a whole that needs to be ready to be the host. Tourists must feel safe and stop being robbed. The cleanliness as a pristine environment we say we are must be that when the visitors land here. And we must give value for money.