Victoria, Mahe (Seychelles) – February 4, 2019 (travelindex.com) – Welcome to Edition 4 of our Volume 3 series. Today, as we start with the announcement that the French President will be visiting the Vanilla Islands of Reunion and Mayotte in June and appeal for the tourism organisation of the Indian Ocean to be able to benefit from the Presidential visit and the visibility that comes with him.
Emmanuel Macron will be in Réunion & Mayotte Islands this June
The Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands will be in the limelight in June when Mr Emmanuel Macron, the President of the Republic of France will be visiting two of the six islands of the group. The French President confirmed his Indian Ocean visit as he addressed the representatives and elected officials of the Republic’s Overseas Territories within the framework of the Great National Debate. The President of the Republic first said he would go to Mayotte in June. Then, when pressed by the elected officials of Reunion, he assured: “If you have other questions, you can ask me in June.”
Can the Vanilla Islands group benefit from the visibility that this Head of State visit offers when President Macron sets foot in Reunion and Mayotte? We are sure that President Didier Robert will do all what is possible for the Vanilla Islands to be on the agenda and we are all hoping the Pascal Viroleau, the CEO of the Vanilla Islands will be able to place tourism for the islands as the catalyst for development in the Indian Ocean.
Seychelles Tourism should not be taken for granted as we continue reflecting on the tourism sector’s achievements and challenges
Last week in our Edition 4 of Vol 3 of 2019 we said that it was an opportune time to reflect on the Seychelles tourism sector’s achievements and challenges, and for tourism leaders in Seychelles to continue to work together to shape what lies ahead. We discussed the moratorium on hotel construction, the vertical integration regulation, the selective approval where on the island of La Digue leased properties are barred from having a hotel license (even if many leased properties have been granted licences outside of La Digue), the increase in fees, the new introduction of courtesy vehicles for 4 Star Hotels etc. .This last editorial opened a floodgate of feedback and all without exception said Seychelles should stop taking its tourism industry for granted.
We shall today take some of the points raised in the email to help steer tourism back to a safe port. Tourism is an industry and not just an activity. This statement aired in Seychelles many years ago should continue to guide the policy makers today. Chopping and changing is not helping the industry that remains more than ever before the pillar of the Seychelles economy. To build confidence it is essential that the private sector trade feel Government understands the industry and above all believes in the industry that is holding the Seychelles economy.
According to the Central Bank of Seychelles, the island’s tourism is still performing even though the visitor arrival numbers slowed in 2018, the foreign exchange earnings are growing. The reasons given were that visitors spending was making it to local banks where that data is captured. We know that, and the private sector trade have all said this over and over again, that if tourism is to continue to be a viable source of broad-based economic growth, then the industry needs to be consolidated as it evolves and that it should be free of obstacles. The stagnating visitor arrival figures can be seen just as an early warning about the state of the tourism industry and the need, as has been aired before in many a tourism destination, for “innovation, investment, and broad social engagement”.
Seychelles must now move further to empower Seychellois to claim back its tourism industry. This is the time and this is the future for Seychelles. An empowered people in their tourism industry with little red tape and a genuine drive to see businesses grow will make for a solid economy for the islands. What is good for the local entrepreneurs will also be a better business climate for the foreign investors as well. The ‘one stop shop’ concept discussed over and over again is so needed today to kill all the running around the business community have to endure.
The government cannot continue to take tourism’s continuing economic contribution for granted. Seychelles needs to recognise how our tourists are thinking and we need to appreciate that their choice is changing, as we consider how the existing Seychelles product might be encouraged to develop and /or upgrade in different ways.
Although it is unlikely that demand for the sun, sea and sand will subside, there is every indication that other warm water destinations such as in the Caribbean are moving rapidly to upgrade their offering, offer better value for money, and explore how to integrate their industry to guarantee sustainable growth. In this regard Jamaica has emerged as a leading force in trying to change Caribbean thinking about tourism’s future role in development. It has achieved this by focussing not just on increasing visitor arrival numbers, encouraging investment and undertaking product development, but by spending time exploring and delivering programmes that make the sector central to sustainable growth and just as importantly, of wider societal benefit.
To accomplish this Jamaica said that attention is being paid to a much wider number of issues, including some not normally regarded as being with tourism’s purview.
For example Jamaica has included: “exploring how best to attract investments that spread tourism’s dollar into rural areas and local communities; ensuring that small and medium sized service providers benefit from the industry; encouraging foreign chain hotels to support training schemes so that many more Jamaicans can become members of senior management among others”.
The question today is how to link the industry and its success and profitability to being better shared with those who deliver it for Seychelles. Seychelles needs to find ways to ensure that the island’s unique cultural experience is infused into all that is offered to visitors. When that is done our people will be at the centre of development in Seychelles.
If Seychelles is to extract the maximum sustainable value from tourism, Seychelles needs to think in new ways about the industry’s future development, how to spread its benefits in ways other than through additional taxation, and about how to update our visitor offering to meet the changing nature of our discerning visitors. We need to find ways of leveraging our identity to the long-term value of own people. Encouraging Seychellois involvement is essential and any proposed policy that curtails their involvement is sure to impact negatively on the industry that is the pillar of the economy.