Green Growth and Travelism: Letters from Leaders
Seychelles sustainability featured in book on new green economy
Travel and tourism is by any measure a massive modern day industry – in the same league as cars, oil, telecommunication, and agriculture. It drives trillions of dollars in GNP, underpins millions of jobs, makes international business function, and is the essence of leisure and happiness. In short, it has to be one of the most significant sectors of the world economy. Yet, all too often its role and potential is underestimated when it comes to global and national socio-economic policy and practice.
This book, “Green Growth and Travelism: Letters from Leaders,” that was launched at the Rio+20 Conference explores why the industry is misperceived and how it can take its rightful leadership place in the transformation to the new green economy.
“Green Growth and Travelism: Letters from Leaders” is the first hard-hitting publication to look practically into these issues by taking the views of 46 government, industry, and civil society thought leaders on the challenges, opportunities, and solutions. First, the authors explore green growth as the new geopolitical paradigm to respond to the big social, economic, environment, and climate challenges of today and the population-driven resource challenges of tomorrow. They then analyze how “travelism,” the travel and tourism value chain - transport, hospitality, and the various industries that support our inexorable urge to move around this planet – can more effectively contribute to a positive long-term societal transformation.
Taking this viewpoint, “Letters from Leaders” provides real evidence of the actions, viewpoints, and hopes of those at the frontline. With a foreword from Maurice Strong, architect of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and Agenda 21, it includes contributions by thought leaders from inside and outside the sector such as Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley (Prime Minister of Bhutan), Thomas Enders (CEO of EADS), Tony Tyler (Director General & CEO IATA), Taleb Rifai (Secretary General UNWTO), Richard Branson (Chairman Virgin Group), Shanzhong Zhu (Vice Chairman CNTA), Akbar Al Baker (CEO Qatar Airways), Marthinus Van Schalkwyk (Minister Tourism South Africa), Gerald Lawless (Executive Chairman Jumeirah Group), James Hogan (President & CEO Etihad Airways), Patricia Francis (Executive Director ITC), David P. Scowsill (President and CEO, WTTC), Giovanni Bisignani (Chairman WEF Global Agenda Council), Supachai Panitchpakdi (Secretary-General, UNCTAD), and a host of others.
Research for the book was undertaken at Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia, and Oxford Brookes University, UK.
The book was edited by Geoffrey Lipman, Terry DeLacy, Shaun Vorster, Rebecca Hawkins, Min Jiang, and carries six pages on Seychelles Sustainability Framework, written by Alain St. Ange, the Seychelles Minister for Tourism & Culture. Seychelles is known as a tourism destination where the protection of its environment remains key to its development.
The bio of the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism & Culture starts the Seychelles section in the book “Green Growth and Travelism: Letters from Leaders.”
“Alain St.Ange, Minister for Tourism & Culture, Seychelles, was formally the Seychelles People’s Progressive Front (SPPF) directly-elected member of the People’s Assembly for the La Digue Constituency (1979), and the Seychelles National Party (SNP) directly-elected member of the National Assembly for the Bel Air Constituency (2002). In 2009, he was appointed as the Director of Marketing for Seychelles, and in 2010, promoted to the position of CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board. Alain St.Ange has authored or co-authored a number of books including “Seychelles, What Next?” (1991), “Seychelles, In Search of Democracy” (2005), “Seychelles, The Cry of A People” (2007), “Seychelles, Regatta 2010” (2010), “Seychelles, Enters The World of Carnival” (2011), and “Seychelles, Remembers Karl St.Ange” (2011). Alain St.Ange studied hotel management and tourism in Germany and France. He has worked in hotels and restaurants in Seychelles, the Channel Islands, and in Australia.”
Following the preface by Maurice F. Strong, the Founder Chairman, Cosmos International Group, Secretary General 1992 Rio Earth Summit, and articles and the many write ups from different known tourism, aviation, and environment experts, Alain St. Ange, the Seychelles Minister for Tourism & Culture, writes about the Seychelles Sustainability Framework .
“In a recent speech, the President of Seychelles, James Michel, high¬lighted the importance of pursuing Seychelles’ brand of tourism. ‘The unique way in which we must, each and every Seychellois, contribute towards ensuring that we make the very best of all that Mother Nature has bestowed upon us, but in a well-thought through, visionary, and sustainable manner, which will create prosperity, not only for today, but for tomorrow as well.’
“The President asked us not to forget that it is tourism that creates the wealth necessary to protect our biodiversity and our unspoiled natural environment. Also, that it is our contributions, both collective and indi¬vidual, which provide the impetus to our industry. Indeed, there has never been a better time for Seychellois who dream of a future in our tourism industry, to seize the moment and play their part, whether it be in the opening of a small hotel, guesthouse, or self-catering enterprise; providing an invaluable service to the industry; or training to be a part of that industry. It is an appropriate time, also, for Seychellois to ‘raise the bar’ with a ‘Quality Tourism Seychelles’ label to ensure that tourism industry players, across the board, provide the welcome, courtesy, professionalism, honesty, and value for money that will do our tourism proud and make our beautiful islands among the most sought after destinations on the planet – today and tomorrow.
“Seychelles has indeed been blessed with a grand diversity that includes not only the wonderful, and in many cases, unique, physical attributes of our islands, but also the varied ethnicity, cultural vibrancy, social harmony, and the distinctive, island-style way of life that helps to make us everything we are. In a world that is becoming busier and grimier by the day, much of what our islands have to offer is a refreshing departure from the norm; a far cry indeed from the processed, look-alike experiences on offer in other places. The Seychelles way of life is time honored, our customs and traditions authentic, our environment pristine, and the activities and services we offer, full of promise and potential.
“We, in Seychelles, are seated on a treasure-trove of natural wonders, riches, and delights that have made Seychelles one of the most aspira¬tional destinations on Earth. It is time to harness our energies to ensure that we capitalize to the maximum on all that we are and all that we possess. All the while, doing all in our power to ensure that we protect what we have and maintain that fragile balance between our tourism and our biodiversity that is the key to our present and future prosperity.
“The Seychelles archipelago belongs to one of the major biodiversity hotspots in the world. Approximately 47 percent of the country’s landmass, and some 228 km2 of its ocean territory, are under some form of protected status. However, Seychelles’ biodiversity remains at risk from a variety of human induced pressures; this makes the conservation and sustain¬able use of biodiversity of vital importance for the country’s sustainable development.
“The beauty of the natural environment and the friendliness of the Seychellois people form the core of the Seychelles’ tourism product. Careful stewardship of these key tourism assets is essential to the sustainability of tourism and to the integrity of the island’s beautiful, yet fragile, ecosystems. The concept behind the development of the Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label (SSTL) originated from the Ministry of Environment in the preparation of Vision 21. The Seychelles Ministry of Tourism (now through the Seychelles Tourism Board) adopted the SSTL project.
“SSTL has been developed over the last three years through research, stakeholder discussion, and local piloting. The criteria used in the assessment are based on international standards, but their development has drawn on local knowledge. SSTL is a sustainable tourism management and certification program designed specifically for use in Seychelles. It is voluntary, user-friendly, and designed to inspire more efficient and sustainable ways of doing business.
“SSTL is presently applicable to hotels of all sizes. The vision of SSTL is that every hotel enterprise in Seychelles inte¬grates sustainability practices in their business operations. The mission of SSTL is to encourage hotels in Seychelles to main¬stream sustainability practices into their business operations and to safeguard the biodiversity and culture of Seychelles by assisting opera¬tors in improving the sustainability of their operations. This is done with useful tips and advice and motivating operators to improve the sustainability of their operations via the certification process.
“SSTL seeks to encourage and guide improvements in sustainability outcomes and as such the project is as much an educational process as an examination process. The rationale behind SSTL is that there exists an inextricable link between tourism and the biodiversity which underpins it. In an age when, according to the United Nations Environment Program, uncontrolled land conversion, climate change, pollution, and other unsustainable human activities are causing biodiversity loss at many times the rate of natural extinction, it is time to take stock and reflect upon how, in so many ways, our civilization is energetically sawing through the ecological branch upon which it is seated.
“Biodiversity is important for its own sake, and it is clear that large areas of unique, natural beauty worldwide are attracting rising numbers of visitors, demonstrating how biodiversity is not only one of tour¬ism’s greatest assets, but quite fundamental to its long-term, sustained growth. However, biodiversity is far from being just a simple attraction, and we must never permit ourselves to lose sight of one simple fact of paramount importance: our eco-systems also sustain us by providing food, energy, health, and some 40 percent of the global economy. It may, there¬fore, be claimed that our biodiversity is our lifeline – one that needs to be nourished and protected because, when it becomes impaired, so will we.
“Tourism and biodiversity are natural partners; each one in need of the other and with each partner contributing invaluably to the part¬nership. However, that synergy is a very delicately poised balancing act, requiring us to ensure that our tourism is sustainable. Also, that it contributes positively to biodiversity conservation and the quality of life of local populations while, at the same time, minimizing negative environmental and social impacts. This is the juggling act that we, as custodians of our nation, must continually and successfully perform if we are to ensure, not only the continued prosperity of our tourism industry but, also, the survival of the extraordinary natural beauty and myriad riches with which Seychelles has been blessed.
“Seychelles is a country whose economy and, therefore, prosperity is very much based on the health, both present and future, of its tourism industry. Safeguarding the interests of that industry and, at the same time, those of the environment and local community, is a delicate balancing act, the outcome of which will very much determine the future pros¬perity of this nation.
“Sustainable tourism is definable as an industry committed to making as low an impact as possible on the environment while helping to generate income and employment for the people of that community. The overall aim of sustainable tourism, then, must be to ensure that development is a positive experience for local people, tourism compa¬nies, and, of course, the tourists themselves.
“In order for this to happen, it is of prime importance that we as a nation take ownership of our tourism industry and, through that owner¬ship, find ourselves in a position to charter its course through sometimes turbulent waters created by the exigencies of the industry itself and, also, by external factors such as the recent global recession. The more our people buy into the industry at every level, the more they will find themselves taking the level of ownership required to become sensitive to the impact of tourism on the environment and the community and, therefore, take steps to ensure that it remains a positive one – not just for today but also in the future.
“The role of government in sustainable, community-based tourism is also critical: in addition to providing a stable economy, government needs to ensure a market-friendly business environment with appro¬priate regulation and oversight to ensure that social policy, environ¬mental, and safety concerns are adequately dealt with. Governments also need to ensure that the necessary physical infrastructure is in place, that the schools are producing sufficient numbers of trained men and women and that the workforce is healthy.
“In the case of Seychelles, in particular, conservation of our unique marine and terrestrial biodiversity is key to maintaining tourist interest in the region and needs to be brought to bear in such a way that the long-term interests of these assets are not sacrificed for mere short-term gains. Here, again, we come to the question of ownership: communities are more likely to protect their environment if they share in the rents or profits accruing from tourists who appreciate their unique heritage, flora and fauna, etc. It is only through such an integrated approach that Seychelles’ tourism industry will flourish as a balanced enterprise – one that takes into consideration the many requirements of tourism but also those of its host – the Seychelles islands, their fragile ecosystems, and their communities.”