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Interview with Daniel Guimaraes, Director of Operations, Club Med Indian Ocean |19 May 2022

Interview with Daniel Guimaraes, Director of Operations, Club Med Indian Ocean

‘We firmly believe in Seychelles’


When Club Med opened its resort in Seychelles on April 21, 2021, the mega hotel group took a huge gamble to start its operations during an ongoing sanitary crisis which had brought the hospitality industry to its knees worldwide. But one year later, the entire landscape has changed, and business is getting closer to normal pre-pandemic levels.

It is in this context of a much-needed economic recovery that Seychelles NATION met with Daniel Guimaraes, the Director of Operations for Club Med Indian Ocean region. He expresses his undaunted faith in the destination, his hope for better conditions of operations, his desire to further integrate Club Med Seychelles in the local society.


Seychelles NATION: Daniel Guimaraes, can you define your role in Club Med for the Indian Ocean region?

Daniel Guimaraes: As the Operations Director for Club Med in the Indian Ocean, I oversee the management of the three resorts we have in the region, two in Mauritius and one in Seychelles and hopefully soon in South Africa where we intend to develop. Together with the teams posted in each country, we devise ways and means to ensure that our offers yield the best guest experience, by maintaining and improving the operational standards and quality of service. I also define the development strategies for all our resorts with consideration to the financial viability of our enterprise.


Seychelles NATION: How has Club Med Seychelles fared since you started in April 2021?

Daniel Guimaraes: It is through courage and audacity that we opened the resort during the pandemic period, but our forceful move proved to be the right one as this year was exceptional in terms of guest occupancy considering the sanitary context. Club Med Seychelles has developed into a very important destination for all our worldwide guests who are eager to discover this new resort. Thanks to our global marketing, commercial and digital presence, which set us apart from traditional hotel chains, we were also happy to help introduce Seychelles destination to a high-end and very international family clientele. Since our opening, we have been particularly happy to welcome customers from Russia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates. As international borders opened during the last part of last year, guests from our main markets in Europe, and of course France, but also in Asia started to constitute the main chunk of our occupancy.


Seychelles NATION: It must have been quite a new discovery for Club Med in terms of operations in Seychelles?

Daniel Guimaraes: Absolutely! We were new in the country, we had to explain our business model and make sure that we were adapting to the economic and social realities of Seychelles, which we did quite fast. As the policy of our group worldwide is always to have a mix of employees coming from various countries to serve our plural contingent of guests, we embarked on a recruitment programme for genuine hospitality competencies which grew very scarce as all other resorts started to re-open. While there is much goodwill and intense desire on the part of the local employees to learn and to grow in the hotel industry, we had and still have to face the challenge of inexperience and absenteeism. The staff turnover is a matter that we had to face at the beginning but gradually and surely, we maintained stability through an intense training programme and coaching sessions. This is still work in progress. We also had to deal with the pace at which administrative decisions are sometimes taken which we fully understand but which is an impediment to our overall seamless operations. But we are resolutely decided to pursue on our track to enhance the work experience and qualifications of all our local colleagues as we want them to grow with Club Med. We are starting to feel that engaging effect with a solid base of Seychellois who have understood the values of our enterprise and who now have a sense of belonging to the resort. This is highly encouraging and rewarding for us.


Seychelles NATION: What has been the contribution of Club Med to Seychelles over these past 12 months?

Daniel Guimaraes: First, I must stress on the fact that we received a very strong support from both the former and current administrations. We started and finished our project at a time when Seychelles was witnessing a political transition, but this never deterred the high belief of the leaders from either side. Both administrations accompanied our economic development in the main industry, and we are now repaying to the country the dividends for the faith everybody placed in us. On the commercial side, Club Med brought its contribution for a better visibility for the re-launch of such a premium destination like Seychelles which has everything our most demanding customers can dream of, that is an environment of exceptional and unspoiled natural beauty, magnificent beaches, a rich culture and above all a warm, welcoming population renowned for its professionalism. On the human resource side, we created more than four hundred jobs with more than half occupied by Seychellois. We have disbursed nearly R30 million during the last twelve months just for the salaries and benefits of our local employees. We have also helped in the creation of over one hundred indirect employments for all our 170 goods and services suppliers which are all local entities. We have spent over R300 million to pay local suppliers for purchases of goods and services. We have sent ten Seychellois colleagues to work overseas mainly in France at some of our other resorts where they are considered and treated as professional expatriates and where they are acquiring vital work experience and exposure. On a fiscal standpoint, Club Med Seychelles has settled more than R75 million in VAT and other taxes. There are also other contributions, among others, the number of trainees that we have accommodated during this first year, the turnover of the excursions that our guests book every day, or their purchases done outside the resort.


Seychelles NATION: What about your social role in Seychelles?

Daniel Guimaraes: We have a strong social implication everywhere we are present in the world and Seychelles is no exception. The Club Med Foundation mobilises Club Med’s teams and resources for the benefit of solidarity projects near our resorts. The Foundation is committed to supporting vulnerable children and protect the environment. It is in this context that a high official of the Foundation visited Seychelles last month to meet with some associations and NGOs to map out a partnership plan. We also signed two MoUs with the Seychelles Parks and Gardens Authority (SPGA) last year to participate in the efforts to preserve the invaluable treasures of the Sainte Anne Marine Park. We are also committed to helping some small farmers and planters through our AGRISUD project which aims at purchasing their products. On the environmental side, Club Med Seychelles is on the verge of obtaining its Green Globe certification for its day-to-day management. This very rigorous certification is reassessed every year and has already been obtained by nearly 90% of our resorts worldwide. We limit plastic to its bare minimum and as an example, since our opening we use glass water bottles which are filled on site to limit the production of waste and transport.


Seychelles NATION: It is also common knowledge that since the opening of the resort, there has been some shortcomings as regards to work permits and noise pollution. What are your explanations on these issues?

Daniel Guimaraes: We cannot hide that there have been some teething problems when we started to operate. I shall put that on the account of our learning process as regards to the legal requirements, the established processes, and the way to adapt to these. During the past months, we have strengthened our procedures to be completely compliant. As for the noise issue, we are putting all our efforts to respect the law and to behave like good neighbours. But Club Med Seychelles is above all a resort area where guests pay to have good entertainment which cannot be done in silence. We are always working hard to strike the right balance and above all to respect the law of the country.


Seychelles NATION: Now that you are starting a second year of operations, what are your challenges and hopes?

Daniel Guimaraes: We need to increase the level of our service standards and more particularly the training of our local colleagues as this is a major challenge. We also require that the administrative procedures for permits and licences to be much faster when we have completed all formalities and submitted the required documents and justifications. We must have a better management of our purchases which are presently controlled by too few suppliers, thus limiting the scope for a better competition. We must also address the question of energy production on the island. Since our opening, we are producing our own electricity with our generators with an exorbitant cost of fuel oil. We are generating our own electricity to ease the burden of the national energy supplier but in return we are not benefiting the same treatment as other outer islands as regards the price of fuel. This is largely impacting on our operations and dangerously sliding our figures in the red. Our remoteness from Mahé mainland has many advantages as a quiet and peaceful resort but it also comes with some unsustainable costs.


Seychelles NATION: To conclude, it was a satisfactory year with a promising future…

Daniel Guimaraes: Of course! We firmly believe in the destination to which we already belong. It is an exceptional resort in a sublime country, one of the most sought after destinations in the world. At Club Med Seychelles we must follow the same track as we did for the first year: keep improving the competencies of our fellow local colleagues, increase their quality of life, streamline our goods and services procurement costs, and contribute to the life of our neighbouring community in a spirit of dialogue and mutual understanding. But we shall need the support of the authorities to clear certain constraints that slow down our development. We are very confident that we shall wipe out these few constraints that are hampering our development and overcome these hurdles with a lot of understanding and good will. In any case, we believe in the Seychelles, and we shall make our utmost to ensure the progress of the destination.


Interview conducted by Gerard Govinden


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