(eTN) - Every country that depends on tourism for its economy, has a minister responsible for tourism.
But how many countries have a politician in place who comes from the industry itself? Tourism has been attached to many other departments - transport, civil aviation, environment, culture, foreign affairs, and even economic development - but does this work? Does it help when the politician is a known tourism personality?
ETN has done a quick look around at tourism-dependent countries, and a clear success story that can be spoken about has been the Seychelles. Here, a hotel and tourism professional was appointed to lead the island's Tourism Board before being named Minister for Tourism. Here, it has clearly worked, as no time was needed for the new Minister to find his footing after his appointment - his knowledge and understanding of the private sector trade has proven to have been the key to his success.
The question often raised is the importance of an adequate understanding of tourism by politicians, because of the complexity of that volatile industry. In difficult economic times, it is easy to see that well-informed, well-versed ministers are running full-steam ahead, while others are trying to find their footing.
ETN was in Seychelles recently for the Routes Africa 2012 Forum, which took place simultaneously with the RETOSA Board meeting, the International Council of Tourism Partners (ICTP) Conference, and the Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands Ministers Meeting, and had the chance to catch up with Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture.
Who is Alain St.Ange, this Seychelles Minister of Tourism who has clearly made his mark on the international scene as a respected speaker at tourism forums?
His official bio reads as follows: Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister for Tourism & Culture, was formally the Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF) directly-elected Member of the People's Assembly for the La Digue Constituency (1979) and the Seychelles National Party (SNP) directly-elected Member of the National Assembly for the Bel Air Constituency (2002).
In 2009, he was appointed as the Director of Marketing for Seychelles, and in 2010, promoted to the position of CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board.
Alain St.Ange has authored or co-authored a number of books, including âSeychelles, What Next?â (1991), âSeychelles, In Search of Democracyâ (2005), âSeychelles, The Cry of A Peopleâ (2007), âSeychelles, Regatta 2010â (2010), âSeychelles, Enters The World of Carnivalâ (2011), and âSeychelles, Remembers Karl St.Angeâ (2011).
Alain St.Ange studied hotel management and tourism in Germany and France, and he has worked in hotels and restaurants in Seychelles, the Channel Islands, and in Australia.
Clearly this Minister comes from the tourism trade, and this may be attributed to the successes he has been able to achieve for Seychelles.
It must be remembered that Seychelles had tourism as a portfolio attached to the Office of the President itself, and before that it was attached to the Office of the Vice President. This showed clearly the importance of tourism for Seychelles, and tourism remains the pillar of the Seychelles economy.
Today, tourism has been promoted to become a stand-alone ministry under Alain St.Ange. This Seychelles hotelier and marketing expert moved seemingly effortlessly from the private sector to head the island's Tourism Board before being named Minister. The success of having a tourism politician from the industry itself may be found in the simple facts.
Seychelles tourism has been growing from strength to strength, and year to date is enjoying a 7 percent increase in visitor arrival numbers when compared to 2011. Last year, Seychelles finished the year with an 11 percent increase in visitor arrival figures over 2010 figures. They have also make a big breakthrough in the competitive world of conferences and have been seen to be attracting such forums one after the other as never seen before.