Seychelles’ warm hospitality was on display at the international airport to welcome a group of 254 Chinese guests onboard Air Seychelles’ chartered flight from Beijing, transiting via Abu Dhabi.
Seychelles Tourism Board (STB), Air Seychelles, Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA), and Mason’s Travel executives awaited and marketing personals buzzed around in excitement on the afternoon of Friday, February 20.
With the celebration of the Chinese New Year on Thursday of the same week, the Chinese tourists were treated to welcoming gifts soon after disembarking the plane.
Family and friends exchanging red envelopes containing a sum of money is a popular “Hong Bao” Chinese New Year tradition, symbolic of one year’s worth of hard work and prosperity. Seychelles Tourism Board marketing executives respected this tradition by giving out small red envelopes, tiny blue red Chinese bags with a motif representing good fortune, and Jouel discount gift vouchers.
Progressing through to custom queues, the visitors got a taste of Creole culture with Creole music by Dave Sinon and a group of dancers adorned in typical sega outfits swaying away.
There were more surprises in store outside the arrival lounge as the ladies were treated to garlands of flowers and the men to flower pins.
These chartered flights were made possible through a combination of four years’ worth of back and forth ongoing work, negotiations, partnering, and meetings with trade and tourism companies involving the Minister for Tourism Alain St.Ange, Seychelles Tourism Board’s Chief Executive Sherry Naiken, and its Director for China Jean-Luc Lai-Lam.
Sherin Naiken, Chief Executive Officer of the Seychelles Tourism Board stated that she is looking at the flight by Air Seychelles (partnering with Etihad Airways) positively because, the Chinese New Year period represents a big travel period, and the two scheduled flights for the month of February will provide extra capacity to the destination and bring maximum Chinese tourists.
China is now Seychelles’ fastest-growing international visitor market, and it is projected to be the third largest market for the year, with over 11,000 passengers traveling between the two countries in 2014. The Seychelles Tourism Board is committed towards ensuring that the growth of this market is well managed. In December 2014, a workshop was conducted to prepare professionals such as tour operators and magazine editors, in better understanding and serving the Chinese tourists since they are of a very different culture, compared to the largely European visitors that is normally welcomed.
It is a unique opportunity to introduce the Air Seychelles’ brand in mainland China, in partnership with Caissa Touristic, which is already well established in the market.
Caissa’s Senior Vice President, Wei Ling, accompanied the group to view the destination and products for herself and to view the potential for other airlines to work with them to target visitors from other areas of China.
Local destination management company, Masons Travel, will be responsible for these visitors’ ground handling, and they have an action-packed schedule planned for them. “Activities will include private tours, tailor-made packages, tour guiding to places like Victoria and the Botanical Gardens, day trips to neighboring islands, and excursions on a catamaran which will include snorkeling,” said Nicole St.Ange, Masons’s Travel group Branding and Communications Manager.
The second chartered flight from Beijing will reach Seychelles on February 27.
According to Florence Marengo, speaking on behalf of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority (SCCA) Chief Executive, Gilbert Faure, many more chartered flights have been scheduled to land in Seychelles starting from the month of June up to September.