Wednesday, 12 November 2014
Seychelles Is Ebola Free!
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.