Some friendships are made for life and some others last only as long as the ‘friend’ holds a significant office before, sooner or later, loyalties are ditched and the proverbial knives come out in the dark while trying to curry favour, and at times funds, from others who now walk the corridors of power
aTP- Arab tourism portal News-Alain St. Ange and I knew of each other way before we met for the first time, notably in Kampala where he had come to attend a tourism and trade conference for Eastern Africa and COMESA.
From then on, when he was appointed as Director of Tourism Marketing at the Seychelles Tourism Board – put forward by a private sector fed up with the ‘same old same old’ in those days – and when he rapidly rose to become CEO of STB we were in constant touch with each other.
Alain valued advice and experience and proved to be a man not shooting from the hips before all facts were on the table and known, and even then opted for persuasion and convincing others of the right way forward rather than rushing into rash statements and actions.
The fortunes of Seychelles Tourism rose and rose while he was at STB, the Carnaval de Carnivals, aka the Carnival International de Victoria was launched in 2011 and this master stroke propelled the archipelago into the global media like never before and resulted a year later in Alain being appointed Minister of Tourism and Culture.
Our relationship prospered, not in material terms I hasten to point out but by allowing for yet more professional exchanges and interaction, as the juggernaut of Seychelles‘ marketing had found a new champion.
Swiftly did St. Ange engage with the global aviation industry, brought Routes Africa to Victoria and become a much sought after key note speaker for tourism events around the world, who wanted to know the secret of his success and how Seychelles punched consistently above their weight, given that the islands only have 90.000 inhabitants.
St. Ange also became a champion of Seychelles’ tourism investors and stakeholders, professing his belief that Seychellois needed to take back their industry and begin to offer a unique product reflecting Creole traditions and culture and pour those ingredients into the melting pot of the hospitality industry.
A strong supporter of industrial training did he throw his weight behind the Seychelles Tourism Academy, which today is a case study for other countries, how cooperation and innovation led to STA becoming the Indian Ocean’s leading institution for tourism and hospitality training.
Currently undergoing the final touches of phase two of a three phased expansion, can St. Ange be proud of getting the private sector on board and support vocational and tertiary training of young Seychellois keen to make a career in the industry.
Arrivals grew and grew some more with some phenomenal results in recent years, when visitor arrivals set new records from 2009 onwards, now in excess of 300.000 tourists per annum.
January this year saw a rise of 34 percent more tourists streaming into the islands, to a large part attributed to a liberalized aviation regime which St. Ange influenced, adding frequencies, larger aircraft and new airlines calling on Mahe’s international airport, while at the same time Air Seychelles prospered too with new passenger records year after year.
When St. Ange a few weeks ago threw his hat in the ring as candidate for the post of Secretary General of UNWTO, he first resigned so not to use the resources of his government for his campaign, even though from the President of Seychelles H.E. Danny Rollen Faure to the grassroot stakeholders in the industry and all in between have endorsed him in glowing terms.
Alain a few days ago came on invitation of the East Africa Tourism Platform and of Uganda’s Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities. the Hon. Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, to attend the annual Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo in Kampala.
As a key note speaker and guest of honour at the EATP launch of their ‘Destination East Africa’ web portal he used the opportunity, as he did in the following panel discussions, the Ministerial Round Table and a series of one on one meetings with the East African movers and shakers in the tourism and aviation industry, to present his vision.
His manifesto, submitted with his candidacy documents during FITUR at the UNWTO head offices in Madrid, speaks for itself, as it foresees a transformation of UNWTO into an organization to serve the entire tourism industry as it presents itself in the 21st century, democratize it and bring services to the member countries in the field rather than relying only on the functions of the UNWTO office in Spain alone.
I was able to conduct an interview with Alain as the world was still in awe over his interviews at Sky News’ with Adam Boulton, with CNN’s Richard Quest and then on the BBC Focus on Africa programme, where he made a perfect case why he should be THE candidate for UNWTO’s top job.
At that stage, something writers and journalists rarely do but which in my case was prompted by various developments, attributed to other candidates’ reactions to the St. Ange candidacy and to a minute minority section of other travel media which broke protocol by openly showing their partiality in reporting.
When they ditched journalistic principles of fairness and equality, I decided it is time that I too take a stand.
Therefore, I now stand side by side with Alain St. Ange as I declare my support for his campaign and without inducements, promised or anticipated favours endorse him as my candidate for the upcoming UNWTO elections in May.
That is more by the way than I can say about others who professed friendship when Alain held office and moved to greener pastures when, principled as he is, he resigned to run his own campaign without using his government’s hard earned tourism revenues or neglecting his duty as a minister by being on the campaign trail for several months.
Below is the link to the YouTube clip of the interview conducted at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel just hours before Alain’s departure for Turkey.