BRINGING EUROPE AND THE SEYCHELLES CLOSER TOGETHER

Exclusive Interview: Ambassador Maurice J. L. Lousteau-Lalanne, Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, Republic of Seychelles

How is tourism growth being promoted in the Seychelles today? We put the question to Ambassador Maurice J. L. Lousteau-Lalanne, Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, Republic of Seychelles.

There are two things. The first is in relation to air access to the Seychelles. For some time now, access from Europe to the Seychelles has always been via the Gulf. The European market has been crying for direct flights, and we have now managed, in 2017, to negotiate and have more direct flights to the Seychelles. As you know, Air Seychelles was the only carrier running three services a week from Paris, but now British Airways and Air France will start direct flights, beginning in summer 2018. So, that gives our main source market, which is Europe, much better connectivity, and will bring back different segments, especially from the UK market. Austrian Airlines will begin direct flights from Vienna this winter as well.

What about new hotels?

In March 2018, the new Four Seasons Hotel will open its doors, and in 2019, Beachcomber will reopen. They had been operating an 80-room hotel, and they will reopen with a 295-room property. There are two other projects. One is on an island 60 nautical miles south of the Seychelles, a five-star 60-villa property. And Ritz Carlton will be opening a new resort in 2019.

What makes the Seychelles different and unique?

There are two things. The first is that when we started tourism in July 1971 with the opening of the airport, we realised from day one that the only thing we have is the natural beauty of the Seychelles, and this is what we are still selling. We did not invent the word ecotourism. We did not invent the word sustainability in tourism, but we have been practicing both of those principles since 1971. And today, the one attraction we offer is the natural beauty of the Seychelles in its pristine condition. To achieve this, we have kept the Seychelles in the upper segment. It’s not cheap, but I can say that Seychelles today is by far the safest destination of its kind. It’s becoming more affordable as the competition heats-up, and we still offer that natural beauty we need to preserve for generations. Otherwise if we lose that we have nothing else to offer

What’s happening with the Vanilla Islands project at the moment?

It’s a project that started a long time ago with some European Union financing. We created an identity, and then it fizzled out, because we couldn’t get the air access sorted out. And then recently, the former Minister of Tourism of the Seychelles, Alain St.Ange rekindled the idea, and the Vanilla Islands today is more structured. In fact, we have a meeting here at IFTM of the Vanilla Islands. I think the first objective has to be to develop cruise tourism. This is more organic for our region. We need to invest some money and provide cruises between the Vanilla Islands. This is because we are islands at different levels of development in tourism. We cannot afford or expect all islands to reach the same level, so we have to start with something, and I think cruising lends itself very well. Then we need the air access. We need to think out of the box; we need to stop being over-protective of traffic rights between us, so that we can open up the market a bit more. That will be a second phase. We will need to get the COI – the Indian Ocean Commission – to agree to a more open sky policy within our region, then it will happen. There’s great potential. We all have different assets and complement each other, and it makes for a great holiday.

(Interview undertaken during IFTM Top Resa in Paris, France, for IFTM Daily – official magazine of the show)