Simon George visits the Seychelles and finds a tropical intensity to MICE aspirations at the five-star Eden Bleu on Mahe:
Lush, exotic and blessed with a tropical climate thanks, in part, to the prevailing trade winds, the picture-postcard images come thick and fast in the Seychelles, deluging the visitor at every step with the islands’ outstanding natural beauty. Clearly the owners of five-star Eden Bleu have tried to capture this photogenic appeal through the hotel’s name – paradise regained perhaps – and through the play on the colour blue (and all its rhapsodic shades) throughout.
Opened in October 2014 on Eden island, an area of reclaimed land that started to be developed back in 2005 by a South African company and connected by a short road bridge to Mahe, the largest island in this archipelago in the Indian Ocean, Eden Bleu is the Seychelles’ most digitally advanced conference venue.
The hotel is 10 minutes’ drive from both Mahe’s international airport and its capital, Victoria and a stone’s throw from Eden Plaza shopping centre. It is modern and bright, and the atrium and lengthy lobby that lead directly onto the international marina, provide a wow on arrival. Eden Bleu offers 74 luxury rooms, 12 suites and one presidential suite, each with terraces that either overlook the granite mountains that provide Victoria’s dramatic backdrop or the adjoining marina.
Eden Bleu is targeting both the leisure and the business market. Given the Seychelles’ location, the hotel is understandably popular with visitors from Gulf Co-operation Council countries and India.
In terms of hotel stays, a country breakdown pre-Covid revealed that tourist visitors from the UAE traditionally occupy top spot, followed by South Africa, the UK and India in fourth. However, significantly, Eden Bleu has no share of the UK and some other MICE markets, a situation it is keen to address.
Eden Bleu obviously once again wants to pull in tourists seeking a luxury base to explore Mahe and neighbouring islands such as Praslin and La Digue – but it is the MICE market, one senses, where it is really keen to expand. To realise this meetings aspiration, Eden Bleu made itself the most high-tech hotel in the Seychelles, thanks to state-of-the-art conference and meeting facilities, which include digital multi-media technology (including a huge LCD screen), video conferencing and translation booths for international delegates, as well as a dedicated meetings and events team.
The hotel’s conference centre offers two ballrooms, each of which can be sub-divided – the largest of which can accommodate 340 guests theatre style and 250 for gala dinners – as well as four separate executive boardrooms (azure, turquoise, cobalt and topaz), which can be used for separate meetings, small product launches or private dinners, and can hold 6-14 delegates. Each also has a breakout area for delegates.
Eden Bleu has only been open a few years, yet in that time it has staged a wide variety of conferences, hosting the likes of the UN and the African Union – for example. Embassy functions are another stream of business and the US Army and Navy have been frequent visitors.
On the corporate front, the hotel has put on conferences for Barclays and made itself available for luxury product launches (Tag Heuer and Porsche) – the latter using the hotel (and its lengthy lobby) last year to launch the new Porsche Cayenne in the Seychelles, which was attended by 150 people and went particularly well, according to the hotel’s sales and marketing manager.
Eden Bleu’s conference facilities are also widely used by the Seychelles Tourism Board for marketing purposes, award ceremonies and gala dinners.
After meetings hours
For conference delegates wishing to explore Mahe, there’s no shortage of places to visit – for example, the island’s tiny capital, Victoria, with its miniature Big Ben, a nod to its British colonial past; the Takamaka rum distillery – surely a takeover target for one of the big rum producers in the next few years; the spice garden (and giant tortoises) at Le Jardin du Roi in the south of the island, not to mention the island’s idyllic beaches. Alternatively, if you’re into big game fishing or diving, you can charter a boat at the international marina next to Eden Bleu.
Mahe is also an ideal base for exploring the neighbouring inner islands of Praslin and La Digue, only about an hour away using the fast Cat Cocos ferries that leave from Victoria’s port.
On Praslin, Vallée de Mai, a Unesco World heritage site and home to the iconic Coco de Mer palm nut synonymous with the Seychelles, is well worth a visit. And if you’re a beach lover and simply want to kick back and relax, the aquamarine water and talcum-powder sand of Anse Lazio (on Praslin) and Anse Source D’Argent (La Digue), one of the most photographed beaches in the world, do not come any more inviting!
Clearly Eden Bleu is doing something right – for two years in succession the hotel was named ‘Seychelles’ Leading Conference Hotel’ at the World Travel Awards.