Post Mortem on Michel’s Failure in Tourism
I have had a busy Tourism related past Two (2) weeks, if you will. It started out with a meeting on La Digue, then the next day, a meeting on Praslin, followed by a meeting with Eden Island top boss Mr. Craig Heegar and Mr. Smith, his financial arm and numbers man.
Last Friday the Seychelles Hotel and Tourism Association (SHTA) had an Annual General Meeting (AGM) and I was re-elected as a member of the Executive Board of the Seychelles largest and most prominent NGO. The Executive Board is made up of many leaders of the Tourism Trade and we meet regularly with the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the IMF when they are in town and conduct extensive briefings on the economic situation of the Seychelles. The Executive Board also interacts extensively with Government of Seychelles, on policy issues that affect the Tourism Trade.
Crime and Tourism
When crime went out of control from 2007-2009, it was SHTA that took the lead to bring crime down, as the Police department changed Deputy Commissioners and Commissioners. On Praslin, SHTA company agents spend over Scr. 25,000 per month on fuel bills for patrols. The Seychelles Police has a budget of Scr. 10,000.00. Today crime in Cote D’Or and other areas adjacent to it are virtually nil.
In the past, the area competed with Beau Vallon for the coveted infamous title of highest crime area of Seychelles. The Public Safety Committee of SHTA chaired by myself, in my opinion can bring crime down in all of Seychelles, against Tourist and establishments, but Mr. Michel must take a position and address Deputy Commissioner Naill Scully, and ask him to clarify if he is ex-Irish Army or ex-Irish Police as the last Deputy Commissioner Fitzgerald. Mr. Scully of course, is ex- Irish Army and must go; he has no Policing experience, aside from what he has learnt in Seychelles. He is too timid to deal with NGO’s concerned with crime, and Seychelles being a micro state, with limited human and financial resources that is simply not acceptable. The margin of error, we place on Mr. Naill Scully curbing crime in Seychelles and making Seychelles a safe destination for our visitors is highly risky if left to him solely to do the job without private sector providing a civil structure to curb crime on private properties and impart information on to the Police, and check the Police performance.
We Have Serious Problems in Tourism
While Alain St. Ange has done a fabulous spearheaded effort, with the help of the SHTA and Mr. Louis D’Offay the Chairman, to keep tourism visitor arrivals up on par with previous year’s performance, the yield of the total arrivals are down -25% in 2009 and in 2010 we expect the yields to go to -30%. These dark numbers no one dare speak of in public, as they will cause alarm, and blame will then follow, panic will set in. I state them because we need to wake up to the urgency of the challenges before us as a People. Challenges will become defeats in the silence of the night, if we are not made aware of the gravity of the hour we face as a Nation.
Responsibility of these low receivables for Tourism cannot and should not be shouldered by Mr. St. Ange or Mr. D’Offay or even the Tourism Trade. The problem is political in nature. The buck stops on Michel’s desk, whether or not he uses it.
Michel Answers My Plea of Removing Politics in Tourism and Industry
Recently Mr. Michel has taken the bold step of posting on his Facebook wall a plea that we take politics out of Tourism and Industry. Fine words from the guilty, however late they may be. Mr. Michel’s JJ Spirit cheerleaders applaud him for the lovely words, but they pose no substantive questions. Hence, making the Facebook medium a complete joke for a sitting President. The Advisor that tricked Michel into doing this exercise should be sent to sort out the illegal hotel on Farquhar Island and set up a guard post while there for Five (5) years.
Before we see that politics is taken out of Tourism, Michel will have to remove the political figures in Tourism management that affect us all and the bottom line.
Who Gets The Boot?
First to get the boot, will have to be the full time golf player and avid game fisherman, who tokes on Cuban cigars, even though his official government salary possibly could not allow for paying for the Havana’s he puffs.
We are of course referring to Maurice Lousteau Lalanne. He is nothing but dead weight at STB. His heavy handed policies of regulating Seychellois hotels, has earned him the highly infamous persona of being one of Tourism’s most disliked personalities. He has become the Rodney Dangerfield of Tourism, no respect.......he cannot get any respect.
While Mr. Lalanne has run STB he has also been involved through his wife, as a shareholder of bare foot charter boats and other interests. He is also Chairman of the Seychelles Island Foundation (SIF), the non profit organization that built the concrete monstrosity in the Vallee De Mai, with Greek Columns positioned less then ½ meter from the main road. Recently, a nurse ran into the columns on a rainy day, and broke 3 ribs, arm and suffered head injuries. It is illegal to build a structure within Three (3) meters of a public road.
The concrete building has recently been used as a garage for a new 4x4 truck and visitors have to walk around the truck to get to the Vallee De Mai, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which we charge €20.00 for entrance. I have more details, but I will save Mr. President further embarrassment. But time is ticking.
The next in line that must go in order for politics to be removed from Tourism will of course, have to be, unconditionally, Captain, Colonel David Savy, who heads Air Seychelles.
Under the leadership of Colonel Savy, Air Seychelles has gone from one crisis to another. In the process, the national airline carrier has simply lost its raison d’être.
No longer does Air Seychelles solely focus on bringing visitors to our shores. It now cattle herds oil rig workers to the Falkland Islands for the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom, and does some sort of return back to Port Louis business with Mauritians that live in the UK, on one of its UK flights to Seychelles, that does an onward bound connection to Mauritius.
Sixty percent (60%) of those seats on that flight from the UK are presold, to the Mauritian market, and potential visitors to Seychelles, are left at the airport in the UK looking for another destination. The pictures of Seychelles on the London taxi cabs, now remind the British holiday maker how difficult it is to get to the Seychelles in 2010.
The net result of Colonel Savy’s poor business judgment is that while Ephélia Resort opens 330 rooms and can take 700 people at once, we have no additional flights and additional seats available into Seychelles. Other hotels in Seychelles remain at the lowest occupancy rates since the mercenary coup. I have personally witnessed prime hotels on Praslin and La Digue suffering from low occupancy levels due to Colonel Savy having no foresight to handle the extra demand that the Ephélia Resort would create. The pain these operators face is griping.
To make matters worse, Colonel Savy took it upon himself, to raise the price of visitor tickets from Mahe to Praslin in January to Euro 80.00 one way, making a 15 minute Twin Otter hop fuelled by kerosene cost as much as crossing the United States in low season. The pricing is discriminatory as some past articles highlighted. That is bad for business as any business marketing professor will tell you.
I put it to Mr. Michel; we cannot take politics out of the Tourism Industry, if we have to deal with excess political baggage. Lead the way, clear the excess political baggage.
If Alain St. Ange did not perform with flying colours as he took over the marketing department of STB, he would have been booted out in no time. Now, why does Seychelles have to carry excess political baggage to our detriment in the Tourism Industry?
The time to clean up house is now, for tomorrow will be too late, some will say.
I say, today, Mr. Michel, you are already late as usual. Shake up the Air Seychelles Board. They have become a melting pot of lackeys except for one (1) Board member. Inject the Board with professionals and business minded individuals. Waste not a second, for you are at the midnight hour of destroying the Tourism Industry, much like you were on October 31, 2008, when you waited till the last second before the Seychelles ran out of fuel, for you to admit that we were bankrupt and needed to adopt an IMF Standby Arrangement to pay our fuel bills in order to keep the pumps going the very next day.
Your government is already operating a 12 month year on a 6 month year. What are you waiting for, to operate a 12 month year on a 3 month year? The function of government cannot be accomplished with re-runs like Antoine Onezime has done on SBC when he has no money.
Get moving man, double time, make up the lost time. You are at your last hour before a major collapse that will destabilize the entire Tourism Industry and Seychelles.
Tourism Has No Five(5) Year Plan
Be not fooled by the politeness in the cocktail parties or the interviews on SBC.
Seychelles is in a financial economic quagmire. Fishing Industry is part of that and so is the Tourism Industry. The projected 4%GDP growth IMF said Government has indicated is based on Sheik Khalifa projections as a new pillar of the “Sell Baby Sell” economic policy.
In Tourism, there is no plan. Every destination has a Five (5) year Integrated Tourism Development Plan (ITDP).
In Seychelles, we have no plan. We cannot have a plan. Why? Because the Michel Administration does not have the political courage to make difficult decisions in order that Seychelles can have a Five (5) year plan.
What Does No Plan Mean?
No plan means we go around in circles. We make mistakes, and shoot from the hip on the main hard currency earner for the Nation.
No plan means Colonel Savy can make his own plans and fly to the Falkland Islands if he likes. It means that Colonel Savy can bus tourists to Mauritius if he likes, instead of bussing them to Seychelles. It means Colonel Savy can charge any rate on a charter to Bird or Denis Islands at his own whim. If he has a buyer for those islands, he can raise the charter price per flight, bankrupt the proprietors, finish them off, and cause a sale. It means he can do the same to all the hotels on Praslin, before Raffles Hotel opens, or on La Digue, before Felicite Island now known as ZIL PASYON opens, which is owned by his brother the Eminent Highness His Excellency Francis Savy, who is credited for destroying the marketing image of Seychelles, when he turned us into a black and white destination. Now he excels in his business ventures after positioning himself to our demise as a destination, destroying the natural beauty of Felicite Island forever.
No plan means Mr. Lalanne can create a grading system to close down hotels in a downturn. Then he can secure buyers for prime properties if he chooses. No Five Year Plan means he can play golf while our revenues dip -25% or -30% in Tourism. No one will ask a question, because there is no plan to base a question on. He can play golf because that is his only plan. Between swings, he can sell a property going belly up and perhaps take a sellers commission for the sale. As he is in government, he may even ask for an advance payment.
Eden Island Factor
No Plan means Eden Island can be conceptualized as a retirement home or second home market purchaser’s product, then when times get tough, apply for a change of use and operate a pool of apartments that violate the policies of STB, which the rest of the trade is held to respect. What prevents the residents of Roche Caiman low income housing estate from operating a similar apartment pool as Eden Island, across the street? There is no plan.
Hence Eden Island cuts into the tourism pie, without programming an increase in arrivals, dictating that it is in Seychelles interest to allow a change of use of apartments. No plan means Eden Island has no hotel built, but is operating a hotel, without a hotel license to help it’s developers get through the tough times of the world economic downturn. “Fish cannot keep whales from drowning”- ancient Seychellois saying.
No plan means Eden Island uses the Victoria sewage connection and faeces overflow between Eden Island and the treatment station regularly. It means Eden Island build apartments and has no water reservoirs on its island, and drains the La Gogue Dam early in the dry season. It means Eden Island uses electricity from our grids, instead of setting up a separate substation on the Island. Our local residents load shed, to keep Eden Island lighted. No plan, means no contribution to increase our grid capacity, water capacity or sewage treatment capacity. With the 2800 illegal Indians down the road, even Eden Island will be screaming no plan in no time, when the faeces makes its way to its apartment villas. No plan means the Minister of Lands said they will send the faeces out to sea by large pipes, instead of treating it at the Victoria sewage treatment plant.
Never has one single investor as Sheik Khalifa brought so much shit to Seychelles, in exchange for so little.
Eden Island will tell you that no plan means they keep Air Seychelles landing in South Africa, with bank guarantees of $ 300,000.00 to pay for their fees, since they have trouble settling bills there. The nightmare is endless, with the no plan thing. Eden Island is a victim in a way, but it has also been a player enjoying the no plan scheme. Now the game is up.
The International Airport
No Five (5) year plan means Ministry of Lands gives Sheik Khalifa, prime adjacent international airport property to house 2800 illegal workers, and stifles the Seychelles International Airport ability to expand and meet demand requirements caused by the increase in total amount of beds in the country.
In case you did not know PP, when you have an increase in beds nationally available, you have a corresponding increase in demand for airline seats, fuelling, parking, taxiing, of airplanes. I bet you never thought of that PP.
Now that we know you have no Five (5) Year Plan for developing Tourism, PP, what are your plans, PP?
The answer is: “Sell Baby Sell”, the only Five (5) Year plan you ever really had! You repeat it every Five(5) years.
I have a message for you PP:
“Sesel Pou Seselwa”
If you no longer believe it, then it is time for you to go, ask Dolor!
May God Bless All Freedom Loving Seychellois and Our Beloved Seychelles!