How to book paradise

Corporates are often deterred by the perception that the Seychelles is an expensive and unattainable conferencing and incentive destination, but industry authorities are busting that myth. Zia Taylor reports.

There is no doubt that when travel buyers consider a destination for conferences and incentives, the Seychelles – although desirable – poses challenges for South African corporates. But for smaller groups, who are looking for an exceptional experience, it’s a great fit.

“The difficulty is that most of the hotels do not offer all-inclusive packages, which is what makes it so expensive,” says Mary Shilleto, ceo of Thompsons Travel. “Everything is imported, which means that drinks, food – everything – is on the upper end of the scale.”

But while the Seychelles is a more expensive destination, the experience offered is quite exceptional, says Lynette Smith, product and contracting executive of Thompsons Travel. She adds that this is why prices should not be compared with other Indian Ocean Islands. “It is an exclusive experience that you are unlikely to get when visiting the more commercialised islands.”

There are also options for all market segments, she says. “You can certainly find a variety of offerings, from three- to five-star products, and even well-established self-catering products,” Smith says.

The Seychelles is definitely on the radar for MICE organisers, even though the economic climate has meant that corporates are cutting on costs, says Martine Sanderson, group sales manager of World Leisure Holidays. WLH is not seeing a reduction in the amount of trips, but rather the size of the groups that are travelling.

Catering for large groups is the biggest challenge, she says. “You can’t book twin rooms as there is only one bed in a room, making a corporate sharing option difficult. The destination is better suited to smaller groups of around 50 people.”

Where delegates can host their conference sessions is also a highlight, says Sanderson. “The Seychelles is a beach destination, so corporates are able to conference indoors or outdoors, or even island hop,” she says.

One of the main benefits of conferencing in the Seychelles is easy access. “It’s only a short flight – around five hours,” says Smith. This allows conferencing options for corporates who want to keep their time out of the office to a minimum.

There is a keen interest in the Seychelles from corporates, says Isla Moffett, commercial manager of Border Air, GSA for Air Seychelles in the South African market. “We have already had several groups travel to the Seychelles this year, and we are increasing flights from five to six services per week, as of July 3, due to the demand.”

David Germain, Seychelles Tourism Board’s regional director for Africa and the Americas, adds that the Seychelles also offers value to the MICE market in terms of excellent transportation, communication facilities and modern infrastructure. Local DMCs and ground services providers also have programmes available for MICE delegates. “There is an array of accommodation available on the three main islands of Seychelles: Mahe, Praslin & La Digue,” says Germain, “that can cater for most budgets too.”

South Africans also do not require a visa for the Seychelles, making travel easier and reducing costs. And locals speak English, so there is no language barrier.

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