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Seychelles targets China as emerging tourism market
Seychelles targets China as emerging tourism market

    The Republic of Seychelles, a small island nation in the western Indian Ocean, has targeted China as the most promising source of its tourism market. 

   "The Chinese people are searching for new experiences and new products. In Seychelles, they can find what is truly 'another world'," said Seychelles President James A. Michel at the Seychelles Tourism Seminar held here Friday. 

 Several high-level tourism officials and some 100 tour operators and travel agents from both countries attended the seminar, which was held by the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) and the Seychelles Embassy in China. 

    The seminar aimed to make Seychelles a familiar destination for the Chinese and pave the way for increased tourism business and partnerships, according to the STB Chairman Maurice Loustau-Lalanne. 

    "Outbound tourism in China is growing rapidly, but Seychelles is less known to Chinese people compared with other popular destinations like Mauritius and Maldives," said Loustau-Lalanne. 

    Often described as "Heaven on Earth", the Seychelles archipelago comprises 115 islands in the Indian Ocean with a population of about 87,000. 

    Seychelles received 16,000 visitors in 2008, among which only 1,000 were from China, according to Loustau-Lalanne. 

    "We expect 5,000 Chinese visitors in the year 2010 or 2011, and in 2015, we hope it can reach 15,000," he said. 

    So far, there is no direct flight between China and Seychelles, and Chinese visitors have to transit from Dubai, Doha or Singapore to arrive in Seychelles. 

    But President Michel said direct flights would be made viable soon. 

    "Air Seychelles is ready to move in this direction as soon as possible. On the other hand, if there are Chinese companies ready to work with us to make such flights possible, we would welcome them immediately," Michel said. 

    Tourism serves as the most important industry for Seychelles, contributing 20 percent to the country's GDP. Loustau-Lalanne said it was hoped that tourism could contribute 35 percent to the GDP in the future with more Chinese visitors. 

    But he added that Seychelles would only target high-end customers in China as well as in other countries. 

    "We don't want to make the holiday crowded or destroy the environment, so we make it expensive. It's a principle for our tourism promotion," Loustau-Lalanne said. 

    The president said in his speech that the environment is their "bread and butter" and they always try to preserve the country's natural beauty. 

    Seychelles and Beijing Tourism Administration also signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the seminar, with promises of promoting each other's tourism in Beijing and Seychelles' capital Victoria in the next two years.


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