Wednesday, 12 November 2014
Though constrained by lack of direct non-stop flights on the Seychelles-China route, the aggressive marketing approach by the island's Tourism Board offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, the East Asian market is showing rapid signs of positive growth. Today, the Chinese holiday makers are flying to Seychelles with Air Seychelles from Hong Kong, and with Etihad, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, and Mihin Lanka (Sri Lankan Airlines).
China is a highly sought-after market for Seychelles. Figures recorded for 2014 are, in fact, significant. With statistics for European markets remaining a bit fuzzy, China, a Seychelles leading market for the East Asian region, continues to successfully overtake all the other of the island's secondary markets with a spectacular increase of 77% on a year-to-date basis.
Lined up as one of Seychelles’ top sources of tourism income, the healthy growth of the Chinese market is gaining recognition, even in China. CAISSA Touristic is a Chinese tourism enterprise committed to providing quality tourism services to Chinese citizens. Founded in Hamburg, Germany, after 20 years of steady development, CAISSA, which had set up its branches in Frankfurt, Paris, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and major global cities, is now thinking of bringing non-stop direct flights between China and Seychelles.
On the first day of his working visit to China, Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture, had an official one-on-one meeting in China with top tour operators. The Minister, accompanied by the CEO of the Tourism Board, Sherin Naiken; Marco Francis, Chairman of the Chamber Commerce and Industry (SCCI); Penny Belmont, Chief Executive of SENPA; Derek Barbe, General Manager of Savoy Seychelles; May De Silva, representing 7 Degree South; Christoph Gangster, General Manager, Raffles Seychelles; Alan Mason and Jessica Giroux, representing Mason’s Travel; Guillaume Albert from Travel Services Seychelles; and Tot-Leong Sweeting of Select-Seychelles met with Chen Xiaobing, President of CAISSA Travel Management Co. Ltd.
During the meeting where members of the Seychelles delegation were united in their bid to sell Seychelles as the new destination for the Chinese holiday makers, Mr. Chen Xiaobing, the President of CAISSA Travel Management Co. Ltd. of China, broke the news of his company’s plan to open up non-stop direct flights from Beijing to Seychelles. The first flight is expected to operate in October 2015 and projected to bring annually 25,000 travelers. This great news for China and Seychelles is the result of close collaborative works between the Seychelles Tourism Board in China and CAISSA.
The non-stop direct flights demonstrate that demand is there from passengers across China to travel to long-haul destinations, such as the Seychelles, and they also provide an alternative gateway to Seychelles for passengers seeking direct flights.
CAISSA is not new in operating chartered flights. In 2011, CAISSA operated its first non-stop chartered flights to Japan. Today, CAISSA, is one of the world’s leading non-stop chartered flight operators. It has positioned itself in some of the most profitable emerging tourism markets such as Switzerland and Bali. CAISSA sees Seychelles as the next conquering market, and is now in the process of acquiring in 2015 its wide-body Airbus A320.
President Chen Xiaobing said CAISSA is “a responsible and serious company” willing to “invest in Seychelles.” The Seychelles delegation welcomed CAISSA’s dream to move in Seychelles with non-stop direct flights. Minister Alain St.Ange gave his reassurance in supporting this venture.
“The Seychelles Ministry of Tourism and Culture’s dream is to have direct non-stop flights to Seychelles from China. It is something that we dearly want to see for the continued growth of our tourism industry,” Minister St.Ange said.
Mason’s Travel of Seychelles is currently the ground handling destination company working with CAISSA. In its evaluation of the Seychelles market, CAISSA set quite a fuzzy picture of challenges faced by the travel agent to sell agents. CAISSA said Seychelles needs to better understand Chinese travelers and their habits. The company explained that Chinese travelers when compared to western holiday makers planned their holidays at the last minute. In regards to marketing of Seychelles in China, CAISSA is convinced Seychelles can still be more aggressive in its marketing drive in China and that it should increase its marketing budget on the Asian market.
Sherin Naiken, the Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board, gave her re-assurance to CAISSA that the Seychelles Tourism Board office in Beijing and Seychelles will work closely with CAISSA to move forward the company’s dream.
China’s tourism industry says that it has surmounted many a sad chapter. Today, as the outbound Chinese operators are enjoying a boom in business since the last SARS epidemic, the tourism operators are faced with a new threat: Ebola in Africa.
Chinese travelers are well aware that the Ebola outbreak is in West African countries. It is true the disease is gaining speed on the continent, but Minister Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture, said to the Chinese tour operators that it will be seen as a geographical mistake to position Seychelles on the African continent. Yes, Seychelles has historical ties with the African continent, but it sits in the middle of the Indian Ocean, one thousand miles off the east coast of Africa. It was evident during the working visit being undertaken by the Seychelles Minister and his CEO of the Tourism Board, accompanied by a strong delegation of the island's private tourism players who are wanting to work with Chinese tour operators, that Chinese travelers have not yet figured out this geographical detail and puts Seychelles in the same bag as other African countries. This wrong perception was not giving the Seychelles’ tourism industry good publicity, but like other African countries, the Ebola threat has affected that continent's tourism industry. Seychelles has been registering cancellations in tourism bookings.
The Seychelles tourism industry believes that sitting back at home would not help much to change this misperception among Chinese travelers. Moving to China and disseminating the right information to travel agents and tour operators selling Seychelles was seen as the best strategy to put an end to this misperception. It is with this in mind that Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture, and Sherin Naiken, Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board, are now in China with local trade partners for one-to-one meetings with travel agents and tour operators selling Seychelles as the new tourism destination for Chinese holiday makers. From Beijing to Shanghai, the message could not have been better echoed: “Seychelles is Ebola free” - and remains “safe for traveler.” In a series of one-on-one meetings, starting off in Beijing with CAISSA Travel Management Co. Ltd., Windy Feeling International Travel Service, and Qunar.com, Minister St.Ange came out with a much stronger argument about Africa being 54 countries and not villages and spelled out where Seychelles was safely situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
“Ebola is on the west coast of Africa; we sit off the east coast of Africa. Yes, Seychelles remains part of Africa, but we live our lives as a small island nation well outside all the difficulties that are ravaging this continent,” Minister St.Ange said.
Tour operators and travel agents in China are convinced that the Ebola threat in West African countries is a wake-up call for the continent, with past scars of economic turmoil. "China is still overcoming its SARS lesson, and with the Ebola outbreak, travelers are conscious of their choice of holiday destinations," said CAISSA Travel Management Co. Ltd. The Chinese tour operators and travel agents are saying that there needs to be continued management of the epidemic to ensure travelers’ behavior is not to boycott the continent as a whole. On a second phase of his visit in China, Minister St.Ange and his delegation will move to Xiamen and Shanghai armed with his map of Africa showing clearly the position of affected countries and where Seychelles is situated and the same message will be echoed and re-echoed.