News on Sunday

Alain St Ange : “Mauritius and the Seychelles are two sister islands and need to work together to consolidate these ties”


Alain St Ange is the former Minister of Tourism of the Seychelles. He is, today, at the head of his own Tourism Consultancy (Saint Ange Consultants). He issues the weekly ‘Saint Ange Tourism Report’. This is an avenue for the region to spell out their successes and challenges. News on Sunday invited him to provide his perspectives on the potential pertaining to regional tourism and how to consolidate links between the islands.


Air Mauritius has not yet published any communiqué about the renewal of air links with the Seychelles. Will it be beneficial for both countries?
Air Mauritius is a strong carrier in our region and having them back on the Seychelles route will be a plus for Seychelles, for Mauritius and for the Vanilla Islands region as a whole. As a Seychellois, I welcome the move, which I am sure will bring more benefits, travel options and opportunities for us with the Singapore and Australia non-stop connections.

Cargo is also an area where Air Mauritius can fill the gap now that Air Seychelles has only a smaller aircraft on this run. Cargo space is needed to increase trade between Seychelles and the other islands such as Mauritius and Reunion. Two companies sharing the route will be better for both countries and applicable airfares will reflect this hopefully. 

Why is there a cold attention given to maritime exchanges like inter-islands cruise in spite of the fact that we have a Vanilla Islands infrastructure strongly established?
I would not say it is a 'cold attention'. I really believe that all the islands of the region appreciate that maritime exchanges are as important as air links among us. The Vanilla islands have made a remarkable success story with the cruise ship business for our islands.

More and more new companies are coming in and basing themselves in our region. Where and what we lack are cargo ships that are based in our region and that tours our islands. This would increase trade, which hopefully would bring down cost because of the proximity of the regional suppliers.

It would also cut the middle men as producers and manufacturers would trade with importers virtually directly.  The second area that is crying for a company to move in is a smaller style cruise ship that would tour the Vanilla Islands and include the likes of Aldabra, Cosmoledo and African Banks, among others, in Seychelles and Rodrigues as well as Agalega of Mauritius. This could be for the region, operated by the region and supported by the region.

What should be done in order to promote a stronger tourism between the countries of the Indian Ocean?
More commitment is still needed. The CEO of the Vanilla Islands needs his Ministerial Colleagues of the region to be more visible by his side. Then, it is pushing on visibility to ensure relevance. For regional holiday options, we need better air connectivity among ourselves. This is the base for the call that will help to learn about the region. 

What are the main threats to the tourism industry: Climate change, terrorism or proliferation of plastics?
Threats and challenges are many, but this is not only for our region. We need to remain what we say we are. A safe environment is crucial to save that trade mark because in the complex world we are living in; very few destinations can claim that tag line.

The environment is also a line we sell ourselves with. We all say we have a pristine environment and we need to maintain the cleanliness of our islands and be seen as good custodians on what we have been blessed with.

We are part of the global world and terrorism is a threat, but we have always had a trump card in our back pocket which we should never lose. Let us continue to be a friend to all and enemy to none.  Seychelles embarked on becoming a satellite station for India with the Assumption Island deal. A mistake if it ever happened because we are putting all our eggs in the one basket and will be seen as an affiliate of one and deemed to be against the other.

What should be done to have better relations between the Seychelles and Mauritius in the field of tourism, cultural exchanges and sports?
We are two sister islands and need to see ourselves as such. Language, culture and historical links tie Seychelles, Mauritius and Reunion and we should work together all the time to consolidate these ties.

Tourism and more trading will help make us be more like one, but it is not just a Government to Government affair, the people must and should also be able to claim this as theirs. More sporting events between two or three islands in the fields of swimming, football, etc., will get us to be more linked.

For tourism, the mechanism is here with us, we need to stand with the Vanilla Islands with the support of the COI and the Indian Ocean Rim. Make us the new tourism region and reap the benefits we expect from it.

Mauritius recently was the venue for an international Golf Cup sponsored by Turkish Airlines. How far such sporting activities can help promote tourism in countries of the Indian Ocean?
Congratulations to Mauritius and Turkish Airlines for that Golf Tournament. This is good as it placed Mauritius firmly into that niche market. But communicating could be more developed. Such activities must make Google Alert for the greater benefit of the island as a whole and for every Mauritian.

Staging an event, sports or cultural, is good and needs to be encouraged, but the communication machinery should be mobilised to ensure massive visibility and for Mauritius in that case to remain relevant, not just in the golfing world but also in every tourism source market.

The same for all the islands, stage nothing if it is only for domestic consumption but hoping it can be an attraction. Best kept secrets will remain but bear little to no dividends.


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