Seychelles: A Cocoon of Luxury
With the advent of the Blue Economy and the ongoing guidance of the Seychelles Tourism Board, the country looks set to thrive as a vibrant regional and international business hub
Comprising 115 islands and many more reasons to visit, the Republic of Seychelles is merging brains with beauty as it looks to instil heightened levels of economic astuteness into its naturally stunning surroundings.
The archipelago houses less than 100,000 native residents and as such is the smallest of all sovereign African nations. However, across both the outer and inner footprints of the country - and especially within its capital, Victoria - the nation continues to punch above its weight and thrive as much more than a paradise destination.
Inevitably, tourism has and will continue to play a pivotal role in the growth of the country, leveraging its hot and humid environment, and its picturesque aesthetics, to facilitate a tourism infrastructure that now also lends itself to myriad industries and sub-sectors for the business world to explore too.
“Seychelles has evolved greatly in recent years and this has been largely due to a greater volume of business created by enhanced visibility of the brand and also greater connectivity by a growing number of airlines servicing the archipelago,” affirms the Seychelles Tourism Board. “This combination of factors favourable to growth has been further nurtured by years of economic, social and political harmony with which the country has been blessed.”
Ultimately, what has now been created is a masqueraded hub of economic acumen nestled among the palm trees and white sands that grace the numerous small islands.
Facts and figures
Languages: English, French, Seychellois
Area: 459 square kilometres
Population (2016): 94,000+
GDP (2015): $2.76 billion
Currency: Seychellois rupee
Time zone: UTC+4
Dialling code: +248
Internet TLD: .sc
The Business End
The blend of English and French speaking locals further aids the country’s international scope when it comes to business development; an evolution that took shape in earnest following its independence from the UK back in 1976. Subsequently diversifying its global outreach from a solely agricultural makeup to become a truly multi-market economy, GDP output has risen exponentially almost every year since then, and the Seychelles now boasts the highest nominal per-capita GDP on the continent.
Since the global economic crisis in 2008, the country’s Government has gone to great lengths to preserve its status via a more concerted privatisation of enterprises; which in turn has leant itself to heightened interest from FDIs and the international business scene.
Similarly, the Seychelles has taken the opportunity to look ahead at this diversification trend and veer ever so slightly away from its natural tourism tendencies.
The Seychelles Tourism Board adds: “The Seychelles has taken the decision to diversify both in terms of its tourism markets and also in terms of its economic base, seeking ways to diminish risk of depending entirely on tourism by looking to explore the many exciting aspects of its Blue Economy and to fortify its offshore financial services sector which has already grown to represent roughly eight percent of GDP.
“As such, The State Bank of Mauritius and Al Salaam Bank Seychelles with headquarters in Bahrain are both opening branches in Victoria. A new residential complex, Pangea Beach, is also being opened on the outskirts of Victoria which will offer state-of-the-art facilities within a cocoon of luxury.”
Out & About
“A cocoon of luxury” sums up the country most aptly, and while diversification is proving clever and astute, it doesn’t take away from the country’s core asset: its paradise setting and consequent appeal as a tourism hub.
Initiating back in 1971 upon the opening of Seychelles International Airport, tourism quickly became a staple fiscal contributor; and while this is still the case, it is actually the legacy it has left behind which is proving most significant in the present day.
Its hospitality options, transport network, conference infrastructure, and leisure functions now befit a nation primed and ready for extensive business facilitation, making it a destination for all seasons and all reasons.
In recent years, the Government has further encouraged foreign investment via numerous upgrades to its hotels and public services.
The Tourism Board continues: “In the tourism sector, Four Seasons is opening a hotel on Desroches Island in the Amirantes, 140 miles from Mahé; while destination management companies are gearing up with brand new boats and semi-submersibles to add value to tourist entertainment.”
Once out and about, the dynamic nature of the country shines through in every restaurant, bar, market and landmark; allowing the Seychelles’ natural and historical preferences to speak for themselves, rather than westernising them too sincerely.
Seafood inevitably forms a large part of the country’s cuisine and is championed by the majority of each island’s top restaurants; accompanied by fresh, exotic fruits and flowers.
While sitting down to your meal, you will often be graced with the diverse yet local tones of Seychellois music, and it would then be rude not to have a beer (or three). The local Seybrew beer in particular is a great example of Africa-meets-Europe and can then be washed down by an even more traditional rum as you wind down the day at one of the many beach bars.
Seychelles Tourism Board
The Seychelles Tourism Board came into being in 2006 as the successor to the Seychelles Tourism Marketing Authority that was formed in 2000, and oversees most aspects of Seychelles' tourism industry. The Marketing Fund is responsible for coordinating the marketing of the destination while the Seychelles Tourism Academy (STA) trains staff for Seychelles' hospitality industry.
“STB is also charged with implementing national tourism policy, conceiving all marketing initiatives and collateral materials for research and product development; providing local information and customer services as well as coordination with tourism offices and representative agencies abroad,” the Board elaborates. “Its original mission was ‘a drive to further raise visitor numbers, continuing to develop and maintain an authentic, dynamic and sustainable product at home, based on professionalism and value for money, as the foundation for parallel, innovative and cost-effective marketing campaigns throughout core and emerging markets’.”
Africa Outlook (AfO): Since inception, how has Seychelles Tourism Board developed and progressed in terms of its key objectives and the messages it tries to get across?
Seychelles Tourism Board (STB): “The Board is always evolving to keep abreast of developments and trends in the highly volatile sphere of tourism which has changed greatly over past years. The Board has invested heavily in digital marketing and spends much energy on getting its messages across via social media campaigns, its official tourism websites and the like.
Today, apart from its traditional European markets, the Seychelles Tourism Board speaks to new markets in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Far East and the CIS block of countries; and its messages are about the affordability of a Seychelles vacation, the harmony that reigns in the country in contrast to many others, and the pristine environment.
AfO: How would you evaluate the tourism sector in the Seychelles now compared to its condition when the Seychelles Tourism Board began?
STB: Today, the tourism scene has moved on from what it was when the Tourism Board started. Today, by virtue of developments in politics, communication, internet and social media, tourism businesses and establishments are more independent in terms of the way they conduct their businesses and disseminate their messages. STB is increasingly a facilitator working in close collaboration with the various tourism players and stakeholders to achieve common aims.
Today, there is far greater connectivity than there was thanks to the many airlines now servicing Seychelles and a steadily growing cruise ship industry. At the same time, major international hotel brands have come on line with their own marketing facilities and suite of amenities which have all helped to raise the bar and strengthen the brand.
AfO: What is in store for the Seychelles over the course of 2017 and beyond to continue the good work already commenced and to enhance its reputation as a tourism and business travel hub further in the future?
STB: Events and expos which have traditionally been organised by the Tourism Board are now being handled exclusively by a new agency (CINEA) for that express purpose. They will be organising the full spectrum of Seychelles events, including La Serenade, the successor to the Carnaval International de Victoria; La Fet La Digue; Seychelles Ocean Festival; and others.
In terms of new constructions in and around Victoria, the Seychelles International Airport is undergoing a major rebranding and reconstruction that has already brought a new domestic terminal online in August, 2017 and during the rest of the year and next year will see the refurbishment of the international terminal, the construction of a new commercial area, and other improvements.
The complex at the Seychelles Tourism Academy, charged with providing education for future generations of Seychellois tourist professionals and already featuring kitchens, restaurants, language labs and other amenities to help students acquire the skills they need to enter the industry, will soon expand to operate a Hotel D’Application; teaching students theory while at the same time engaging in the practical skills necessary to provide on-the-job training and echoing the academy’s motto: ‘Learning through experience’.
AfO: Looking forward, what progress and development do you expect to see in the future, both in regards to the Seychelles Tourism Board as an entity, and in regards to the business travel industry in the Seychelles as a whole?
STB: I would look forward to Seychelles further strengthening its brand and consolidating its position as a gateway to Africa by virtue of further strengthened connectivity and amenities on the ground and in continuing to attract regional and international businesses to our shores.
I hope that the advent of the Blue Economy, in particular, and the many economic opportunities it offers and the tools it places at our disposal - such as Marine Spatial Planning and Fiscal Debt Conversion Systems - will continue to make Seychelles a vibrant regional and international business hub.
“I look forward to Seychelles further strengthening its brand and consolidating its position as a gateway to Africa...” - Seychelles Tourism Board
Food & Drink
Art & Culture
The aforementioned renovations occurring throughout the Seychelles and in Victoria especially are epitomised by the International Airport, which serves as a gateway to the country.
Once again strengthening its network on both a domestic and international scale, Seychelles is very much a country open for business, and open to ideas from overseas.
And when you do find yourself heading for the islands, simplicity reigns supreme. While you must provide evidence of a return ticket or the finances to return home, a visa is surprisingly not required. It is also expected that you should be prepared and accounted for from an accommodation perspective before arriving.
Once you arrive at the country’s only international hub in Victoria, the country is equally well set-up from an internal point of view. Air Seychelles facilitates ease of transfer across the other main hubs, Mahe and Praslin, and on the rare occasions that you may need to go even more remote, then it’s time to take to the high seas.
Seychellesbookings is on hand to cover all ferry services between the numerous islands, and you can arrange these online prior to your trip.
Once again the country’s operators opt for simplicity in migrating visitors from place to place, and you can also contribute your own element of straightforwardness to proceedings by hiring a car during your stay.
Bliss Car Hire and Capricorn Car Hire are two such examples of rental companies able to facilitate your journeys around Victoria, Mahe or Praslin especially.
“Bird Island is one of the last authentic pieces of paradise remaining on Earth. This small coral island is located at the far north-east edge of the Seychelles, and has been described by some as the most beautiful island on Earth... about 30 minutes away from Mahé by plane, [it] is the Seychelles' most northern island. Surrounded by crystal-clear water and endless beaches, this small coral island can't be beaten when it comes to natural, native flair. While the Seychelles' inner islands are all granitic, Bird Island belongs to the outer coral islands, making it a unique prospect compared to the larger islands at the heart of the Seychelles.” - SeyVillas
“Simple. It's a gorgeous, wide bay with calm, gentle waters that is perfect for children. The sunsets here are out of this world, and the glassy-smooth water reflects the light beautifully... It's also remarkably affordable for the Seychelles, with a number of beachfront hotels that won't break the bank, and enough restaurants to keep you interested if you tire of hotel buffets...” - SoSeychelles
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
“This imposing Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Catholic Diocese in Seychelles. Constructed on the site where Father Leon of Avanchers built the first vault in March, 1851 that was devoted to the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, the Cathedral is one of the first churches in Seychelles.” - The Seychelles Islands