Seychelles Tourism: 20 years on
Seychelles’ tourism industry has evolved much over the last twenty years. Two decades ago tourism was in the hands of the government’s Ministry of Tourism and the landscape, both internal and external, was very different to what it is today. Up to that point (and for some time still to come), promotion of the industry was very much in the hands of the government which executed that function in traditional ways and there was little individual marketing at a time when personal websites and individual marketing aids were all but unheard of.
After a decline to 90,050 visitors in 1991 because of the Persian Gulf War, the number of visitors rose to more than 116,000 in 1993 as growth was restored through the introduction of casinos, vigorous advertising campaigns, and more competitive pricing. In 1991 France was the leading source of tourists, followed by the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and South Africa.
Europe provided 80 percent of the total tourists and Africa, mostly South Africa and Reunion, most of the remainder with European tourists being considered the most lucrative in terms of length of stay and per capita spending. The highly popular early tourism slogan was Seychelles: Unique by a thousand miles. Gradually, during the 90’s the pace began to quicken as government began encouraging foreign investment to upgrade hotels and other services with the incentives offered giving rise to an enormous amount of investment in real estate projects and, over time, to new resort properties and enhanced infrastructure.
The birth of Air Seychelles international in the early 80’s saw the advent of a new tool with which to attract a greater number of tourists to the islands. One of the significant catalysts of change came in 1999 with the formation of Seychelles’ most concerted effort yet to market Seychelles on the international scene: the Seychelles Tourism Marketing Authority. Under its auspices came the construction of a powerful, dedicated tourism website to market Seychelles products and a new suite of collateral materials and destination videos with which to aggressively push the name of Seychelles to the forefront of consumer conscience. The highly-structured drive that followed featured the targeted marketing of Seychelles, its attributes and niche markets and was crowned by a brave campaign featuring black & white imagery under the tagline Seychelles…as pure as it gets. Seychelles was slowly but surely beginning to breach the knowledge gap about the islands and place itself squarely on the global tourism map for all to see.
Over the intervening years and compounding this dynamic has come the gradual appearance of new, internationally recognised brands such as Banyan Tree, Berjaya, Constance Hotels, Le Méridien and Hilton and, more recently, Four Seasons, Maia, Raffles and the residential project on Eden Island. Together, these have signalled the birth of a new era in Seychelles’ tourism and the arrival of a new demographic of tourist while the individual and collective marketing clout of these establishments and similar entities was always destined to slingshot the name of the Seychelles Islands across the globe as never before and make the real difference in attracting visitor numbers.
In 2006 Seychelles rebranded again as the Seychelles Islands…another world, reverting to colour in its imagery and stressing the ‘grand diversity’ of its tourism products – a phrase which has since become one of the main pillars and highly effective ingredients of Seychelles’ many tourism marketing initiatives. In 2009, in a watershed move to consolidate the industry, the Seychelles Tourism Board was restructured under the leadership of private sector appointee Alain St. Ange.
In mid-2010 President James Michel re-qualified Seychelles’ brand of tourism as being more than just ‘sun, sea & sand’, urging the industry to make fuller use of the country’s many attributes to attract tourists. This has launched Seychelles’ tourism into a new phase in which a greater focus is being placed on events such as the Carnaval International de Victoria, SUBIOS, Miss Seychelles, Festival Kreol, Fet Afrik, La Fet La Digue, Seychelles Eco-healing Marathon and the Seychelles Ball which have helped somewhat in raising Seychelles’ profile in the international arena as has the islands hosting of the RETOSA, CAF and ROUTES conferences.
Today, the tourism landscape is different indeed to what it was 20 years ago and is evolving still. Seychelles has been made accessible as never before by the arrival of such major global airlines as Etihad, Emirates, Ethiopian and Kenya, joining our very own Air Seychelles, now in a vital new equity partnership with Etihad Airways which has already seen the national airline post its first profit of U.S. $1 million and play a key role in the current surge in tourism arrivals to the islands as 2013 figures to date show a 16% rise over 2012.
Along with its suite of activities and also new amenities that includes marinas and a plush, new shopping mall, Seychelles is also diversifying its tourism beyond its valued, core European markets into the Middle-East, Africa, the Americas and Far East, all of which are experiencing promising growth as the islands continue to maximise their enormous tourism potential and attempting to balance its benefits against sustainability.