The latest edition of FIRST Magazine of the UK containing an interview with Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Candidate for Secretary General of the UNWTO was distributed to subscribers and to the first class lounges/cabins of airline partners (BA, America, Air Canada, Etihad etc.) mid last month.
Declan Hartnett of the FIRST Magazine circulates the interview with Alain St.Ange, now candidate for the UNWTO and former Seychelles Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine.
– Why did you decide to run to be the next WTO Secretary General? Tourism has been my life. It has been my only career since returning to Seychelles from my hotel and tourism studies. I have decided to run for the position of Secretary of the UNWTO because I believe the organisation needs the new SG to have qualities to continue in the footsteps of Mr Taleb Rifai. He will be remembered as having been the giant in his work that brought countries together and for being the catalyst for unity with other tourism and travel related organisations. I believe that I have the needed qualities to continue the work undertaken by Mr Taleb Rifai, and I am sure I could follow in the footsteps with success.
– What makes you stand out from other candidates? I am from the Seychelles Islands of Africa and we have as my country’s official languages English and French apart from our Creole language. We have in Seychelles a culture referred to as the Melting Pot of Cultures that comes from a unique blend through generations as our ancestors came from France, the UK, the African Main Land, China and India. Today the people of Seychelles stands with their head high as for us the colour of one’s skin, one’s religious beliefs, one’s political affiliation and one’s sexual preference plays no part in you being respected. The successful candidate for the position of Secretary General will need to respect everyone and every country over and above the understanding of tourism today and the challenges it is facing.
– Why are you the right person to succeed Dr. Taleb Rifai? Few can say they are the right person to replace Dr Taleb Rifai. His shoes will be big shoes to fill. But if I can say I am second-best after him I am doing so because I have worked closely with him in my capacity as the Seychelles Minister of Tourism and Culture and finally as Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine. He was a good mentor who displayed the vision of tourism through all its facts. I learned from Dr Rifai because I believed in him. Following on his road spells out that the new Secretary General must be a friend to all and an enemy to no one, just like say say as our Seychelles tag line since our Independence from Great Britain. I am not complexed and remain myself in any circumstance and position. I am accessible at all times and understand the world of tourism. I am a Team Player and should be able to continue to lead the employees of Capable Personalities who make up the UNWTO Team.
– What can other WTO member states, associate, affiliate members, and the UNWTO overall, expect from you as a leader? They can expect a friend who will be at their side. A friend who will work with the WTTC and PATA at the same time and with them by my side with ICAO and IMO. The work of Secretary General is not that of a solo trader but it is that of a leader who can surround himself with associates and affiliates. The regions of the world of tourism can continue to benefit if I am successful in the May elections as I have worked always with the spirit of togetherness to create strength.
– What will be the tenets of your administration? Alain St.Ange as Secretary General will see the continuation of the Taleb Rifai era. I would firstly like to try to invite him to have an Emeritus Status at the UNWTO and be the guiding councillor. This would ensure we have an eye from the past as we build the future. I will work with an open door policy for member States as I bring to each and every Member State the needed support to help them consolidate their tourism industry and to help them to grow it.
– What plans and actions are you looking to implement once elected? I will be presenting my Statement of Intent in Madrid. I owe to everyone to know what to expect under a St.Ange Secretary General in the one go. Briefly the plans are firstly to grow the Membership by inviting Countries who are not Members to join the tourism family. Secondly I will work with Governments to protect their safety label as this is today the most sought after Unique selling Point of any tourism destination. Thirdly I will work with the Press Bodies and Personalities to help defend tourism and its destinations and to work with Governments through other bodies like UNEP and UNESCO to protect what our world has been blessed with. Point four is to work with IATA and Member States to ensure that air travel does not become over cumbersome with over security. Point five to continue the work started on the question of Visas. Six to work with IMO, ICAO, Airline companies and Cruise Ship companies through WTTC and PATA to consolidate travel and holidays in all its aspects etc.
– What changes would you propose from the current status of global tourism? What needs to be changed is the assault on the world’s security and its safety label as this impacts directly and indirectly on the economic survival of Member States. Global tourism is today severely impacted by the scare of insecurity. A forum needs to be called urgently on what was first tabled in Madrid a year ago. We also need as the UNWTO to follow up on the question of assisting Member States when they have been ‘Black Listed’ following a problem . The UNWTO must get the mandate to work with tourism source markets to clear a country and readmit them as a welcoming holiday destination when the problem they encountered has been satisfactorily dealt with. And thirdly to work with Tourism Trade Fair Organisations.