With the continuously evolving Covid-19 situation Keeping Seychelles ‘top on the mind of visitors’ |13 January 2022
As the Covid-19 situation around the world remains volatile, more specifically where our tourism source markets are, the primary objective of the department of Tourism remains to keep Seychelles ‘top on the mind of visitors’ we are targeting and in the countries we are targeting. The department then uses different tactics to reach out to these visitors.
“This is necessary because we have to readjust and review our activities depending on evolving situations on the ground in order get the same results. We have to keep monitoring closely how things develop on the ground in different countries, remain alert and vigilant at all times and must be ready to come up with an alternative to address these. With the Covid situation, unfortunately things on the ground can change fast,” the director general for marketing in the department of Tourism, Bernadette Willemin, explained recently.
The target for the number of visitors arriving in Seychelles for last year was set at 189,000 but the year closed with a total of 182,849 visitors. Ms Willemin said based on information gathered, they have not been able to reach the set target because with the new Covid-19 variant Omicron emerging towards the end of the year, this has resulted in a number of cancellations while at the same time has forced the department to temporarily close some destinations like South Africa which had not long ago been reopened.
She noted that a number of reservations had already been secured when that market closed again.
But all the same Ms Willemin said the department of Tourism is satisfied with the number of visitors who have made their way to Seychelles.
Rising above competition
Meanwhile with regard to competition in tourism, Ms Willemin has said it is there, has always been there and will always be there.
“Many of our competitors have different advantages over us but this is mainly financial as they have big money to invest heavily in different campaigns to attract visitors. But as a small country, we have to continue to work with the budget we have as we also have different challenges and different priorities. We have a great advantage as a destination with a brand image which has distinguished us from other destinations for years and years. So as a people we have to continue to maintain our image and eliminate all negative elements that threaten to tarnish it and our reputation,” Ms Willemin remarked.
But she noted that this alone is not enough and will not sell on its own. This is why it is important that we keep diversifying the products we offer to ensure Seychelles as a destination remains relevant and visible on all our international markets.
Visits to tourism establishments
Meanwhile during the past year the department of Tourism has continued its series of visits to various tourism establishments on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue and these are expected to continue as soon as the sanitary conditions relating to the Covid-19 situation improves.
Ms Willemin noted that in general the department is satisfied with the visits which have allowed for frank discussions with business owners and managers in the tourism sector.
“We have seen first-hand the different products being offered to visitors and in general I would say that a lot of products are of the standard and quality that meet the expectations required of them but I have to admit that there are also products which are far from the required standards and quality. Therefore we continue to work with these establishments, guiding and advising them on ways to improve and upgrade their products,” Ms Willemin stated.
She said the product development unit of the department of Tourism is responsible to assist these establishments on how best they can improve their products but in close collaboration with other stakeholders and entities concerned in ensuring a product is of the required quality and standard to be offered to foreign visitors.
She further noted that another good thing about the visits is that the majority of business owners had the opportunity to express their satisfaction at the number of visitors they have received since Seychelles opened its borders to the world end of March last year.
Quality of souvenir products for visitors
With regard to the quality of souvenir products being offered to visitors on the local market, Ms Willemin said while there are some good products, a lot of effort needs to be put into improving others.
She noted that this relates to product diversification in which there are two aspects; namely the local experience that ensures the visitors have a memorable and unforgettable great experience of Seychelles and the different souvenir artefacts that visitors are often eager to buy and take back with them to remind them of their holiday in Seychelles.
She said work is ongoing at the department with regard to product diversification to ensure that visitors are offered a wider range of opportunities to explore and experiment so they spend more money.
When it comes to souvenir objects, Ms Willemin noted that there is a lot of room to improve on what are being offered to visitors.
“In spite of all challenges faced by producers in this area, what is important is that we offer quality to the visitors. It is not worth it to buy such products from abroad, retouch them and add a Seychelles sticker making them look like they were made here. This is not what visitors are looking for but things that are authentic. Mind you many visitors travel around the world and they would easily identify these things,” Ms Willemin remarked.
She has called on artisans and other craftspersons and producers of souvenirs to be mindful of these aspects and to produce genuine local products.
Persistent challenges to tourism
Complaints from noises of different forms – be it loud music, barking dogs and others – as well as reports of robberies, remain persistent challenges to tourism in Seychelles and Ms Willemin said the department has a unit which handles and addresses all these complaints in collaboration with concerned authorities and agencies.
“Our greatest wish is that these problems are dealt with and eliminated once and for all for the benefit of our visitors who come here seeking peace and quiet and also for the benefit of our own people who also enjoy peace and quiet. We take these complaints seriously because when we receive negative feedbacks from visitors these do not help businesses,” said Ms Willemin.