Government Initiatives, Collaboration & Partnerships

By 1 October 2021October 4th, 2021Sustainability

Government Initiatives, Collaboration & Partnerships

By Julie King

Interview with Sherin Francis

In the second blog about Seychelles, Sherin Francis, CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board, describes the support provided by the Seychelles Government to the tourism industry during the pandemic and then goes on to discuss collaboration, both local and regional during the crisis.

What has the Seychelles government done to support the tourism industry on the ground and Seychelles in this crisis? Has it been through stimulus packages or other areas such  as waiving fees to help the industry through this tough period?

At the very beginning of the pandemic, the country realised that the industry had been badly hit. Tourism is our main industry here in Seychelles, so it was important to ensure that hotels and tourism partners can survive the hit. Then when it is time to rebound, they are there to help in the recovery.

Half, if not more of our hotels have become bankrupt and closed down, so without government support, the recovery would have been much harder. This is why the Seychelles government decided to support people who were directly affected by the sudden hit to the tourism industry. The support was mainly by directly paying the salaries of staff on the payroll of these businesses. The government took on this commitment until December 2020.

The banks were also asked to reschedule the loans of tourism suppliers to give them a grace period; with no revenue coming in, it would be impossible for them to service a loan. So they had systems on the government sites to ensure that our various services in the industry can be sustained for the moment.

But during this time, what we’ve seen emerge, just like in every other destination, is domestic tourism.

Once the domestic economy was back running, and we did not have a lockdown or these restrictions of movement, most hotels were offering local residents special offers for the various services at their properties, restaurants and excursions. Local people have nowhere to go because they are being discouraged from travelling overseas, and it was also a very good means for them to at least sustain themselves, in addition to the salary assistance they were receiving.

Was that quite popular on the domestic side? Did a lot of people take that up?

Yes. There were a handful of properties involved. Of course, the revenue is not the same as with international tourism because their prices were considerably reduced, but it provided support for the basic fixed costs.

“For the Seychelles Tourism Board, our work has not stopped. Even when our friends overseas were under various levels of restrictions, we were very proactive in using the time and technology available to remain in touch with all of them. We are in a people industry, and I always like to say to people that relationships matter. Just because they have been furloughed, it doesn’t mean you don’t try to reach them; they are human beings at the end of the day.”

How has the Seychelles Tourism Board collaborated and united with industry stakeholders across the whole ecosystem from the onset of the pandemic until now? I know that you regularly talk with everyone and have updates, but it would be good to hear some examples of how you’ve done that.

We used to talk every day and support each other, and why not when the times are bad. We still have to remember our partners were there, with us during the good times.

We’ve remained constantly in touch with all of our partners across the world, wherever we have offices, and even here at headquarters. It was important for them to understand what’s happening in Seychelles, the new measures in place and the various steps of reopening. And every time we have new information, we have made sure we shared it through the various means available today.

As well as the basic interactions we’ve been having with our partners, we’ve also scheduled various virtual events. For example, virtual roadshows where the partners from Seychelles have joined us, virtual seminars and virtual training. We’ve even participated in fairs, for example, in virtual fairs and wedding fairs. We recently participated in the virtual WTM in the UK, so we’ve remained active using technology to our advantage. We’ve been as busy as we were during the normal period.

And you also had a lot of strategy meetings with the industry, proceeding with these in a virtual environment. Looking at the industry on the ground in Seychelles, did you increase your frequency of how you communicated and collaborated during the time? Did that change from how you do things normally?

If there’s one thing that pandemic has done for us, it brings us together; the Seychelles Tourism Board, the ministry, the private sector, and the tourism industry. Because we’ve had many meetings, reopening the destination with the new measures in place has not been easy. Finding that delicate balance between health and the economy has been a very difficult process and task. There have been some very heated debates and arguments, but I’m happy that every time the Department of Public Health and the STB have managed to find some amicable and reasonable ground where the two can coexist. This would not have been possible if we had not constantly been collaborating, meeting and keeping in touch with one another.

It was also very important to keep the media informed because, through the media, you can reach the rest of the population for them to know what you are doing. Not just the media in Seychelles but the media internationally as well, because every decision we take here in Seychelles has to reach our global markets. They need to know what we are doing; communication has been essential in that process. We have also been doing many surveys within the industry to understand how badly affected they are and understand how they perceive and see the future.

This was important because understanding how they see things will also help us in terms of how we plan for the future. And it’s important also to learn from the visitor’s side, at least those visitors who have been coming. What are their perceptions? How easy or how difficult do they see the process? Would they recommend Seychelles during this time of pandemic? And things like that, so we’ve been very busy collecting market intelligence that will allow us to understand how things are right now and how things may look in the future so we can plan our strategy accordingly.

 

 

In the next blog, Sherin explains how the marketing strategies for Seychelles have shifted to adapt to the new era and showcased examples of some of the new initiatives of the destination

“As an industry we weren’t solving the problems that really mattered. We were disconnected from each other and not leading the way.”

Julie King
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In addition to the Find Your Formula, Audit Your Business For Growth (4 modules) you will have access to the Business DNA and Personal DNA curriculums, you will also join the flagship LB Program that has been designed specifically to support business owners navigate the global pandemic of 2020/21 to drive them into growth.

This is a self-guided programme where we will provide support in the form of accountability groups, so that your business is ready to fully optimise the trends that tell us that there will be a 10-year period of fast growth in the economy from 2022 onwards. The program is designed to be intensive and collaborative.

  • Weekly webinars on growth and sustainability
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