A new record has been set by the number of tourists visiting Seychelles during 2010, with the number finally climbing to 174,529, some 17,000 above the number recorded in 2009; or some 13,000 more than the previous record of 161,273 visitors set in 2007.

The success of our tourism industry comes in the wake of a number of changes in operations, personnel and marketing strategies that have been put in place since 2009, when Alain St. Ange took the helm of the industry as part of a government-private sector initiative to inject new dynamism into the tourism sector.

“I am the first person to say that the success we are witnessing is very much due to team effort and also to our determination to harness all available resources in our effort to grow visitor numbers such as our Seychelles Tourism Ambassadors programme and Friends of the Press – Seychelles,” states Mr St. Ange. “We are a small country and so have to be very innovative in the way we operate. Each market is different and with its own challenges and opportunities, but in today’s world we have to diversify our customer base by penetrating new markets while we consolidate our position in traditional ones.”

He goes on to explain that the first task at hand when he accepted the job of Marketing Director at the Seychelles Tourism Board two years ago, and then CEO last year, was to prepare the necessary groundwork for what would follow.

“At that point it was all about repositioning Seychelles in our markets and winning back the confidence of the trade,” he explains, “but from here on it’s more about creating visibility and raising the profile of Seychelles as a tourism destination.”

Seychelles is now set to embark on this new phase of creating visibility and a number of campaigns have already achieved considerable success such as the advertisement campaign in London using taxis painted up in Seychelles livery and sporting enticing pictures of the islands. Seychelles colours have also been found on the Formula 2 car of racing driver Andy Soucek who enjoyed great success in 2010.

Meanwhile, marketing campaigns such as “From the BIG Five to the Best Five” have helped create awareness on the African continent of the possibility of enjoying a twin-hub vacation that includes a Kenyan safari together with an unforgettable experience of the Seychelles islands. A similar campaign is now planned for Tanzania with others sure to follow in the months ahead.

Seychelles’ new markets continue to perform strongly with, for example, Seychelles receiving more visitors from the UAE than even Mauritius during 2010. 2010 visitor arrivals from South Africa were up nearly 10% over 2009, a trend echoed by visitor arrivals from Russia, China, India, Reunion, and Kenya. Visitors coming from core markets in Europe were also up by 4.5%, showing significant growth across the board.

Adequate airlift to further swell visitor numbers in the coming year will remain an important determining factor in the continuing success of the industry and, in particular, the meticulous research, planning and, above all, correct identification of lucrative routes which can supply Seychelles with tourists. The recent increase in Emirates’ flights to our shores, plus those of Qatar and the announcement of increased flights by Air Seychelles to Italy and South Africa and above it direct flights from France, means that the Seychelles Islands are effectively ‘one stop from anywhere’, a fact that significantly strengthens its marketing capabilities by allowing visitors greater flexibility and more options when planning their trips.

“The ability to cater for increasing numbers of tourists in terms of sufficient bed stock is something we have to ensure”, remarks Mr St. Ange, “but a number of new hotels such as Raffles, Plantation Club and others are now coming on line which should significantly boost the number of available beds.”

Seychelles will continue to market itself in line with the core values of the ‘Seychelles Brand’ – a new approach designed to capitalise upon the unique collection of attributes which make the islands what they are and which, in many cases, place us head and shoulders above the competition: world-beating beaches; wonderful climate; stunning, natural beauty; a friendly, welcoming people; vibrant culture; grand diversity of islands, ethnicity and experiences and a growing array of niche markets (diving, fishing, sailing, eco-holidays, golf, spa & wellness, groups & incentives, weddings & honeymoons, etc).

“The implementation of this new style of tourism aims at maximizing our Creolité in our brand and core values which, by the way, suggests that, where at all possible, Seychellois tourism representation abroad should be by Seychellois themselves, as who is better qualified to perform that task than a national?” adds Mr St. Ange.

2011 will also witness the birth of the new Tourism Master Plan, conceived through intensive rounds of discussions with representatives from all tourism sectors and designed to provide the guidance and properly integrated policies and guidelines necessary to assure consistency in tourism policy.

“Although Seychelles has been blessed in many regards with what it is able to offer to tourists, we must not become complacent and must ensure that we do not price ourselves out of the market or allow issues of visitor safety and security to darken an otherwise bright horizon,” warns Mr St. Ange.

“In an increasingly insecure world, Seychelles has remained a very real oasis of safety and tranquillity which our tourism needs to prosper and we must do absolutely everything in our power to ensure that it remains that way. We must ‘earn’ our tourists by the way we treat them and by the positive experiences we provide and not fall into the trap of believing that the success of our tourism is in any way a ‘given’.”

As Seychelles tourism gears itself to face the challenges of a new year when increased visibility will be a chief goal, the first point on its agenda will be to secure the maximum amount of publicity from the upcoming “Carnaval International de Victoria”, due to be held between the 4th and 6th of March 2011. This Carnival is set to attract participation from a number of countries including the UK, South Africa, Zimbabwe, South Korea, Japan, China and France as well as the presence of a number of international dignitaries and other well-known personalities. The media attention from the 3-day spectacle looks set to place Seychelles at centre stage, something very much in line with its tourism strategy.

Scheduled to be held just before the Carnival, at the end of February, the annual Eco-healing Marathon is also set to drum up interest in the islands as the tourism industry looks to strengthen its international events sector while supporting the various activities of its tourism offices abroad and the ever-swelling ranks of its tourism ambassadors.

Across a broad spectrum, it looks like being a busy 2011 for Seychelles tourism.