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November 18, 2017

Friends of All, Enemies of None equals Tourism for All


There is a simple formula for UNWTO candidate Alain St. Ange competing for the post of the United Nations World Tourism Organization Secretary General: “Friends of all, enemies of none equals tourism for all”

The run for the post of the new Secretary-General for the United Nations World Tourism Organization is in full swing. Candidates from Brazil, Colombia, Georgia, Seychelles, South Korea, Zimbabwe are competing for the highest post in travel and tourism. Among them the former minister of tourism from the Indian Ocean Republic of the Seychelles.

Tourism is the number one industry in Seychelles, and the person competing for the UN post managed to almost single-handed put Seychelles on the map of global tourism and was widely praised as one of the most successful and outspoken ministers of tourism. He is Alain St. Ange.

Friends of all, enemies of none. This has been the message Alain St. Ange transmitted to the world when he was a minister of tourism. He said: “The Seychelles is the only country on the globe where anyone can arrive with no visa.”

After St. Ange entered this campaign he added to his message of ‘Tourism for All’ – to rid the industry of discrimination, in terms of race, religion, gender, sexual preference, disability, politics etc. He is the only candidate that had actively reached out to LGBT travelers and his country is now welcoming this group with open arms.

St.Ange was one of the first thinking about entering the UNWTO Secretary General race, but backed out due to local political issues in the Seychelles and came back unexpectedly. This has caused a conflict with the African Union. The Seychelles is a member of AU, and the organization voted anonymously to support the Hon. Walter Mzembi as the African candidate for the race of the UNWTO. Just last week this endorsement for Mzembi caused African Union officials to ask St.Ange to back out of the race and support the Zimbabwe candidate.

Africa never had a UNWTO secretary general. The highest post within the UNWTO from Africa is currently held by Elcia Grandcourt. She is from the Seychelles and works asthe regional director representing Africa at UNWTO. Previously Ms. Grandcourt was the head of the Seychelles Tourism Board.

Despite the pressure, Alain St. Ange, however, stands firm in continuing his global campaign for the highest post in tourism. Tomorrow he will be leaving to attend the WTTC Summit in Bangkok and after that, he is to participate in a panel at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

St. Ange campaign approach is unique. He puts a big emphasis in reaching out to the private industry and media. This got him a record number of endorsements from many private companies in the Seychelles and abroad. It also got him good visibility in publications, TV and radio, including a session with CNN Richard Quest.

Alain recently said in an interview with Travel Daily that tourism and insecurity do not go hand in hand. He wants to make this one of the pillows in his vision for tourism.

Second is sustainable tourism. He said: “The UN and the UNWTO have been preaching this cause, but now it is time to work with member states to push the point across.”

St. Ange wants tourism to be seen as good custodians of what destinations have been blessed with. Sustainable tourism will promote long-term tourism and will work for countries to alleviate poverty and help bring a climate of peace. Louis D’Amore founder and president of the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism has been a great fan.

As all candidates have said, St.Ange also wants to enter into discussions with countries who are not members of the UNWTO to invite them to the table. “We have but one tourism industry and we need to see the world work together to grow that tourism cake for everyone to benefit in return.”

St. Ange wants to decentralize the UNWTO Madrid headquarters with the opening of satellite offices in regions and key countries.

The Seychelles manifesto summarizing St.Ange ideas names as “other key points”  to immediately open cross-sectorial meetings with private sector organizations such as WTTC, PATA among others on the one side, the UNWTO, UNESCO, ICAO, UNEP etc on the second side, and the press on the third side.

“This will see ministers of tourism, civil aviation, and internal affairs sit together and look at security, and also air access issues.”

“Secondly it is again an extension of sustainable tourism where training is looked at with member states to ensure that regions have good hotel and tourism academies where languages are also taught. Training brings job satisfaction and creates additional value for people in tourism destinations. ”

“Thirdly to look at communication and marketing with member states. This will look at standards and value-for-money, but also the question of “What is Tourism?” and help countries move away from the connotation that tourism is a hotel or excursion. We need to replace this concept with the country being the tourism and to look at the infrastructure, cleanliness, culture, people etc.”

Yes, it matters that the USA and Great Britain, Australia, Singapore among others are not members of the UNWTO. We have one tourism industry that encourages people to cross borders and be a tourist so we need to sit together and develop strategies together. The world is today small because of easy air access and the ability to communicate as will. We need to be innovative and ready with trends and challenges and it is together that we can be better prepared. As SG I will actively try to bring non-member countries into the fold.

“I want to be remembered as having made a difference and having become the spokesman for tourism wherever a success story is developing or a disaster has occurred.”

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