Sunday, 30 November 2014

Fishing Is All Year Round Unlike Tourism. Time For Change!

The year 2014 proved to be unexpectedly more challenging for tourism in the Seychelles than anticipated, as the archipelago’s tourism marketers had optimistically projected a 3 percent growth over their record breaking year of 2013, when new arrival records were set.
For much of 2014 did arrival figure lag behind those of the previous year, and only a strong performance in December will make it possible to match last year’s record, with even money at present if it is slightly over or under that yardstick.

Insider information from several sides though also confirms that revenues per passenger were down compared to previous years, posing yet another challenge for the marketing team, which only yesterday provided some key data from the 2014 arrival statistics.
It is apparent from those stats that Britain, for long in the top five, is no longer even in the top six, having been pushed down the ranks by the United Arab Emirates, Russia and China, the latter showing one of the fastest growth rates of any country of origins for the Seychelles, this year up by nearly 80 percent, similar to the trend seen over the past few years.
It also shows that the sentiments often expressed here on behalf of stakeholders, that the French market needed the return of nonstop flights to Mahe, were justified as Germany outpaced France and took the lead as the country with the most visitors to the archipelago. Condor, flying nonstop from Frankfurt to Mahe under a scheduled flight operation, for some time considered the early launch of a second flight, but eventually showed some caution as they postponed their final decision which in reality means another frequency would realistically only come on line for the winter season 2015/16.
Visitors arrivals as of week 47 of 2014
Country of tourists origin No. of visitors
Germany 33,124
France 29,759
Italy 18,224
Russia 12,823
China 12,585
United Arab Emirates 11,898
Resource allocation will next year reflect this new constellation to recapture lost numbers in particular in France but also other European markets which had gone ‘soft’ during the past 11 months, a wise choice considering that Europe still accounts for nearly two thirds of all visitors to the Seychelles, which makes the current 4 percent Europe wide loss all the more important to reverse.
Regular sources from the islands also raised two added issues which are worth exploring some more.
Although Air Seychelles is upping flights to and from Abu Dhabi and is launching flights to Dar es Salaam, Antananarivo and Mumbai, is the lack of nonstop flights to France seen as a setback for the tourism private sector and the country’s tourism marketers. This decision, some say taken in Abu Dhabi rather than in Victoria, has led to growing support for a new airline venture, Seychelles Airlines, which however has not received regulatory approvals as yet, leading to suggestions that vested interests if not outright foul play is keeping the new airline, which notably said they would fly nonstop to Paris, out of the skies.
A second major shift in policy may also be on the cards as one of China’s largest touring companies, CAISSA Touristic, has proposed to fly charters from China to Mahe, giving their passengers those coveted nonstop services, were it not for decades of deliberate choices and decisions to keep charters out of the Seychelles and rely on scheduled flights, in part of course aimed to keep the quality of visitors in the upper market bracket and avoid the downsides charter operations have brought to other long haul destinations.
‘It is all good to hear that the Chinese are prepared to start a charter to Mahe but official policy so far has been and it so remains, until a change is officially announced, that airlines coming to the Seychelles must operate scheduled flights, not charters. We are watching how this dilemma is solved, because obviously we need more visitors to fill our beds, in the new resorts and of course right across the locally owned B&B’s, guest houses and holiday apartments. It is those where our own people have heavily invested in and which consumed their nest eggs and is to provide them with long term sustainable income. Some of my colleagues and I are very cautious because to change that policy also means that Air Seychelles will have to drop any objections and you are aware of the linkage between government and the national airline right up to chairman level.

The tourism lobby will want to see a change in that policy and the airline and its backers and supporters in government will very likely object and try to halt it like they halted the new airline. If there is a change in policy, arrival numbers from China can very quickly double and more but if not, it might be a do or die for tourism.
We are at crossroads now and whichever direction Seychelles take will shape the next decade and more. If charters were to be allowed we will certainly be able to fill more beds in locally owned establishments. We also need more hotels in the 3 and 4 star category, priced similarly to those in say Zanzibar or Kenya or Mauritius. If charters are not allowed, we may have to see the market stagnate for a while because Europe is still in economic difficulties, the Russian market is affected by sanctions and the Chinese prefer nonstop flights over changing planes in other locations. As you said, those are hard choices to be made and I don’t envy those who have to make them and fight to get them implemented’ said one regular contributor in an extended exchange of emails and social media messages.
The just ended annual marketing conference of the Seychelles Tourism Board, during which some of these challenges were no doubt discussed, some in open forum and some of the more touchy subjects rather more in private, was also presented with the new sales collaterals, a new destinations video, a new proactive website and new printed brochures, the latter however apparently playing a lesser role today compared to past practices.

Seychelles no doubt remains one of the most talked about long haul island destinations in the world, punching well above her weight and indeed has much to offer, beyond sand, sun and fun.
Festivals have taken root across the year, from the globally renowned Seychelles Carnival to the Festival of the Sea, in 2015 celebrating its 25th anniversary and to be renamed as the Festival of the Ocean, the China – Seychelles Festival, the India – Seychelles Festival, the Eco Marathon, the annual Festival Kreol, next year celebrating its 30th edition already. Events besides natural attractions, more than half of the Seychelles is by law dedicated to conservation, have put and kept the archipelago on the global map and high profile honeymooners like the Duke an Duchess of Cambridge and the Clooneys, among many other glitterati, have made sure that the island is talked about across the social media and given high profile exposure in the world’s glossiest and fanciest travel magazines and TV Travel programmes.
Opportunities in plenty but then, so are the challenges which need to be resolved, and, given the vocal opposition about a proposed new resort owned by the Emirates’ Group at Cap Terney earlier in the week, so does the question of when is enough enough. What maximum visitor numbers can the Seychelles sustainably receive, considering the added needs for fresh water and electricity but also for trained human resources and how far can the envelope be pushed without colliding with the principles of both the ‘Green’ and the ‘Blue’ economic blueprints.
On the upside stands the increased dialogue between government, stakeholders and ordinary citizens, all of them aware that tourism is and will remain the backbone of the local economy and compromises must be found to keep the archipelago out of an economic downturn which might bring greater challenges than the ones outlined above.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Foreign Travel Advice Seychelles

Safety and security


Most visits to Seychelles are trouble free, but tourists have been robbed. Crime levels are rising, with an increase in both targeted burglaries and opportunist thefts against residents and tourists. The inability of the authorities to catch and prosecute offenders is a concern.
You should maintain at least the same level of security awareness as you would in the UK and make sure your living accommodation is secure. Don’t carry large amounts of cash or wear eye-catching jewellery. Use a hotel safe to store valuables, money and passports. Don’t leave valuables in cars or anywhere on display.
Accommodation, particularly in isolated areas, should have adequate security, including external security lighting, grilles and overnight security guards.
Be vigilant and when outside hotels grounds always carry a mobile phone with roaming capability for use in emergency.
Take care in isolated areas and also in more popular places like Beau Vallon and the back streets of Victoria, especially after dark. Beaches, parked cars and both residential and tourist accommodation are favourite targets for thieves.
People trekking on marked and unmarked trails have been robbed, including at knife point. Leave valuables securely in a safe and stay within large, organised groups. Take particular care if you’re alone

Monday, 24 November 2014

James Michel In Abu Dhabi For The F1 Grand Prix While IMF Has Firmly Established Itself In Seychelles

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, a number of world leaders, Crown Princes, dignitaries and senior officials attended the final race of 2014 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi.

The final race was attended by His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Ali Bongo of Gabon, President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, President of Tatarstan, Rustam Minnikhanov, President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades, President of the Republic of Kosovo, Madam Atifete Jahjaga, President of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolic, President of Seychelles James Michel, and Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

The Vice-President arrived at the race's starting point accompanied by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid, Sheikh Hazza and Bernie Ecclestone, chief executive of the Formula 1 Group, which manages Formula 1 Grand Prix. The national anthem was played before the start amid presence of huge fans.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid met, saluted and exchanged views with a number of competitors, wishing them good luck. Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed crowned Lewis Hamilton, a British and driver of Mercedes Team on winning F1 championship, while Brazilian driver Felipe Massa crossed the line to second place ahead of Valtteri Bottas, a Finnish who won the third place.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Seychelles poachers go nutty for erotic shaped seed

Under cover of darkness in the steamy jungles of the Seychelles thieves creep out to harvest the sizeable and valuable nuts of the famous coco de mer palm, and their activities are threatening its long-term survival.
Nicknamed "coco bottom" on the Indian Ocean archipelago for its curves like a woman's buttocks, some 40 of the giant nuts have been stolen since the beginning of the year on the island of Praslin.
The trees survive, but slashing with knives means the rare palms produce fewer fruit each year, while the seeds themselves are taken off for sale rather than producing new plants.

It is a worrying problem for the Seychelles, which features the coco de mer on its coat of arms. Conservationists fear the illegal trade threatens the future of nut, the biggest in the world and endemic to just two of the country's islands.
"Shock and horror," the headline of a Seychelles news agency story read after a raid last month in which 10 nuts were stolen.
With some 17,000 trees counted on Praslin and 10,000 on neighbouring Curieuse island, the tree is now on the warning "red list" of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN.
It says numbers have dropped by almost a third within three generations of trees, warning the harvesting and illegal sale of the nuts poses a significant threat.
"Before we'd see about 75 coconuts on a tree, now there are just 25," said Victorin Laboudallon of the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), which helps conserve the palm-filled Vallee de Mai national park, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site.
"Trees do not give as much fruit as before when a coconut is cut."
- Alleged aphrodisiac -
The nut is a fertility symbol for some and in Asia, particularly in China, it has a reputation as an alleged aphrodisiac.

Thousands of tourists who visit the white sand beaches of the Seychelles eye them as ornaments.
Britain's Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge were given a nut by the government at the end of their honeymoon on the Seychelles in 2011.
Protected by law, nuts can only be taken out of the country in accordance with strict regulations.
A nut, which can weigh as much as 35 kilogrammes (77 pounds), can reportedly sell for as much as $450 per kilogramme ($202 a pound) on the black market, meaning a single nut can sell for thousands of dollars.
In an attempt to curb the thefts and protect the 19 hectares (47 acres) of forest where the palms are found SIF has boosted the number of guards, but the rugged terrain and lack of fences complicate that task.
The bizarre "double" nut has an ancient history: traded far from the archipelago to the Middle East, Asia and Europe, earning legends of its healing powers.
For centuries, its origin was a mystery: nuts were found only adrift at sea or washed up on the white sand beaches of the Indian Ocean. Never having been seen growing on land, sailors thought that they came from the sea bed itself - giving the name, the "coconut of the sea".
Demand grew after the country's independence from Britain in 1976 and the boom in its tourism industry, said Laboudallon.

The government was forced to step in to control the trade, with the legal export of nuts highly regulated and only four companies having a licence to sell.
But the illegal smuggling continues.
Laboudallon fears the tree could suffer the same fate as the Dodo, the extinct bird that disappeared nearly 400 years ago on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.
The environment ministry insists they are in control of the situation, installing x-ray machines at the airport to scan for the nut, said top official Ronley Fanchet.
But environmental activists were shocked when a recent culinary festival, organised by the culture ministry, featured the famous nut.
For the first time, coco de mer dishes -- including ice cream, pies and bread -- were available for tasting at the one-off festival.
Defenders of the fruit warned that could create a new demand that would put the nuts under even greater pressure.
"If tomorrow there are menus with coco de mer in all restaurants, what do we do?" said SIF chief Frauke Dogley.
"It is not the one-off use of the kernel which is the issue here, but creating a demand, where the side-effects have the full potential to lead to an unsustainable exploitation."

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Fraudster set to lose Austrian millions

Benefit fraudster Wayne Patterson will lose the $3.3 million he has invested in Austria, after the Crown won a case to retrieve it.
Wayne Thomas Patterson was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison in 2007 after pleading guilty to stealing $3.4m in multiple charges of benefit fraud.
He faked 123 identities to claim up to $28,000 a week for three years before his arrest in 2006.
The Crown has recovered the $3.4m that was taken, but it has also spent the past eight years in a legal battle in Austria to recover Apple shares and cash that had increased in value to about $3.3m.
Patterson, who employed an Austrian lawyer, has argued that the Crown has recovered what it was owed and the outstanding funds were rightfully his.
Despite telling the Parole Board last year that he had instructed his lawyer to release the funds to the Ministry of Social Development, he has continued his fight to retain the funds.
In September, the Vienna Court of First Instance heard the Crown's claim against Patterson and his Seychelles-based company Westgate Holdings Ltd, which he set up to hold the stolen proceeds.
On October 30, the court ruled that the Crown was entitled to the cash and Apple shares held in the Anglo-Irish Bank in Austria. Patterson was also ordered to pay the Crown €48,300 in legal costs.
Patterson and Westgate have until mid-January to appeal the decision.
A ministry spokesman said that if the ruling was not appealed the funds could be deposited in the consolidated account early next year.
Patterson, 55, is to appear in a judge-alone trial in January on seven charges in relation to writing forged letters in support of a failed bid for parole.
He was denied parole in March, with the Parole Board finding he could not be trusted not to offend again if released early.
The board took into consideration advice from the ministry that said Patterson was trying to thwart the ministry's attempts to recover profits made from the investment of his stolen funds.
Patterson's current sentence ends in July next year.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Why Are Chinese Tour Operators Cancelling Seychelles Travel?

Yes, Seychelles has historical ties with Africa, but it sits in the middle of the Indian Ocean, 1000 miles off the east coast of Africa.
So why are Chinese tour operators cancelling trips to Seychelles?
Over ebola fears, according to a report in eTurboNews.
Top Seychelles tourism officials have gone to China armed with maps of Africa and this message: Seychelles is Ebola free and safe for travelers.
Alain St. Ange, the Seychelles minister for tourism and culture is in China with Sherin Naiken, CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board, for one-on-one meetings with travel agents and tour operators. They’re selling Seychelles as the new tourism destination for Chinese vacationers.
They started in Beijing with CAISSA Travel Management Co. Ltd., Windy Feeling International Travel Service, and, eTurboNews reports.
St. Ange argued that Africa is 54 countries, not villages, and spelled out where Seychelles was — safely situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean, eTurboNews reports.
It became apparent to a delegation of Seychelles’ private tourism players who want to work with Chinese tour operators, that Chinese travelers have not yet figured out this geographical detail, according to the report. They put Seychelles in the same bag as other African countries. This wrong perception gave the Seychelles’ tourism industry bad publicity.
The Ebola threat has affected Africa’s tourism industry. Seychelles has been registering cancellations in tourism bookings.

“Ebola is on the west coast of Africa; we sit off the east coast of Africa,” St. Ange said. “Yes, Seychelles remains part of Africa, but we live our lives as a small island nation well outside all the difficulties that are ravaging this continent.”
Tour operators and travel agents in China are convinced the Ebola threat in West African countries is a wake-up call for the continent, eTurboNews reports.
“China is still overcoming its SARS lesson, and with the Ebola outbreak,
travelers are conscious of their choice of holiday destinations,” according to CAISSA. Chinese tour operators and travel agents say there
needs to be continued management of the epidemic to ensure travelers’ behavior does not boycott the continent as a whole.
St.Ange and his delegation plan to go to Xiamen and Shanghai armed with a map of Africa showing clearly the position of Ebola-affected countries and where Seychelles is situated. The same message will be repeated, the report said.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Sakher El Matri agresse une Tunisienne aux Seychelles

Psychopathe ? Maniaco-dépressif ? Mégalomane? Rusé ? Tous ces traits de caractère pourraient correspondre à un Sakher El Matri, éminent sympathisant des Islamistes, selon nombre de ses anciennes connaissances et autres collaborateurs. Mais nous le croyions calmé depuis qu’il a été éjecté de la Tunisie et accueilli aux Seychelles grâce à ses amis influents. Il n’en est rien. La beauté de cet archipel posé sur l’Océan indien n’a pas calmé les penchants violents de Sakher El Matri ni son agressivité.

Ainsi, il s’en est pris à une jeune mère de famille tunisienne séjournant dans un hôtel de la place alors qu’elle le photographiait. Pourtant tous les Tunisiens savent que le gendre de Ben Ali, qui demandait aux journalistes de le féliciter pour le poste de président de Conseil d’Administration de Tunisiana alors que l’on tirait leurs concitoyens comme des lièvres, séjournait en hôte de qualité à Victoria, capitale seychelloise.
Il faut reconnaître que de la haine à l’encontre de ses compatriotes, Sakher El Matri en a beaucoup à revendre. N’ont-ils pas mis fin à ses rêves de grandeur, lui qui se projetait déjà Président en 2019 ?

Friday, 7 November 2014

The Dangers Of The Middle East Hubs

The Seychelles delegation attending World Travel Market in London (WTM) is saying that all is looking more positive for the island on the UK market.
“The continued interest by the UK Tour Operators, the support displayed by the press through the many interviews carried out on the Seychelles Stand at WTM and the new business drive are all positive signs said the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture Alain St.Ange who was personally heading this year’s delegation to the UK Tourism and Trade Fair.
“Airline discussions have been held and new investments inquiries attended to. Our arrival figures are showing signs that the UK Tour Operators are pushing the islands once again. We launched new marketing tools and our e-marketing Department is today more on the ball than ever before”  said Minister St.Ange
This year the Seychelles had a big private sector delegation participating alongside the Seychelles Tourism Board at WTM.


Foreign Office issues worldwide terrorism warning for British tourists

British holidaymakers travelling anywhere in the world have been told to be vigilant as they are at risk of being attacked by Islamist terrorists.
The Foreign Office on Friday night issued a worldwide travel warning, saying tourists were at a risk of attack as a result of Britain’s intervention in Iraq and Syria.
The warning applies to every country in the world, and the FCO updated travel guidance on its website. It reflects a “generalised threat” to Britons, rather than intelligence of a specific and credible attack.
The warning states: “There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.”

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Seychelles Chamber of Commerce chairman Marco Francis refutes Sri Lankan fraud allegations

Marco denies involvement with Robert

The story published in Lanka Herald about Sri Lankans being swindled in the Seychelles has resulted in one of the accused, Marco Francis writing to the website disowning himself from Robert Piksa’s actions.
Francis in his response said, “Yes, I am a shareholder in a company with Mr Piksa and yes, we export fish to Sri Lanka, but all our activities are above board. Also whatever dealings Robert Piksa has or had done on his own I cannot be responsible. I have never indulged in nor will ever go into money laundering.”
Following is the response sent by Marco Francis.
I am writing to you in reply to the article in Lanka Herald on October 30, 2014 title “Sri Lankans swindled in the Seychelles”.
In the article you specifically mentioned my name Marco L Francis have “swindled” a number of unidentified Sri-Lankan nationals seeking to do business in the Seychelles. Also “cheated many Sri Lankan businessmen promising deals in the Seychelles and obtaining funds, starting from exporting fish to Sri Lanka, opening up offshore companies and bank accounts for money laundering were some of the rackets the duo were allegedly involved in”.
This article is totally without justification and the accusations were totally baseless and false.
Yes, I am a shareholder in a company with Mr Piksa and yes, we export fish to Sri Lanka, but all our activities are above board. Also whatever dealings Robert Piksa has or had done on his own I cannot be responsible. I have never indulged in nor will ever go into money laundering. As chair of SCCI I have to put the good name of Seychelles business first in everything I do. I am cought in the middle of this for being a share holder of the company.
I believe that there are ulterior motives at play as the article does not mention any specific names or transactions.
The article has brought disrepute to me, the Seychelles chamber of Commerce and Industry and Seychelles.
I am requesting that Lanka Herald do a retraction as prominent a place on its website as the article.

Kind Regard
Marco L. Francis

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Harmon Chellen Police Case: ASP Will Soon Travel to Seychelles

The unexpected and mysterious death of Harmon Chellen in the Seychelles is still being investigated – so far, no clear answer has been found. Harmon Chellen’s body was spotted in the sea on the same day that he had been summoned to a police station after having been accused by an employee of the hotel where he was residing of attempt to rape.
The Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Luciano Gerard, is to travel to the Seychelles for the investigation of the circumstances of death. The Mauritian minister of foreign affairs, Arvin Boolell, explained that before the ASP can make the trip, a written agreement signed by the Seychelles authorities is needed. Once this is communicated to the Mauritian authorities, the ASP will be in the position of doing a follow-up of the police case.
Arvin Boolell also added that they are waiting to have access to the report of the medical examiner, Dr Sudesh Kumar Gungadin, who did the second autopsy on the corpse. The report in question has already been submitted to the police and will soon be sent to the Prime Minister’s office.
After the autopsy that was performed in Seychelles in August, it was suggested that Harmon Chellen had died drowning. However, the family of the man did not agree with this theory. At their request, another autopsy was done at the Victoria Hospital at Candos. This operation had revealed wounds at the level of the temple. Another theory was then formulated: Harmon Chellen might have died when he was in police detention.