SEYCHELLES – The editorial written by Mr. Louis D’Offay, chairman of the Seychelles Hotel and Tourism Association (SHTA) in the last issue of their publication, Tourism E-News, is a reflection of the Seychelles tourism industry on the current state of affairs in Seychelles. It is clear that the vision of Seychelles President James Michel has brought a spirit of toghterness between the private and public sector. Mr. Louis D’Offay’s editorial highlights the progress and seeks for more to be done to consolidate the Seychelles tourism industry.
“Where are we as an association, and what have we achieved for our industry is a question so many is today asking. Yes, the Seychelles tourism industry has now embarked on yet another new era. As the Seychelles President announced recently, the launch of his government’s new tourism vision under the theme “The Seychelles Brand,” our association must claim credit for the long and often difficult path it followed to help take Seychelles to this point we have now reached as a country.
“It has always been clear for our association that our tourism industry would never be consolidated for the long run unless the Seychellois were fully integrated into their country’s main industry. ‘Claim ownership’ of our industry had been a statement we have echoed over and over again, and today, we salute the government for taking our call on board and for saying that the time has arrived for Seychelles to claim ownership of its tourism industry.
“This statement is far from saying that we do not need our foreign investors. This statement is accepting that our country needs to make it easier for Seychellois to get on board the tourism industry wagon. The Planning Department will need a speedy reorganization, because the time it takes for a Seychellois to move their building plans for a small locally-owned project has neven been acceptable. President Michel will need to call for files of all those Seychellois-owned projects of 30 rooms and under and issue instructions for the beaurocrats to stamp ‘approved’ on them. Seychelles is tired of seeing foreign developments arrive and break ground as brave and able Seychellois see their projects move from office to office and entertain inspection visits after inspection visits with no end in sight.
“These Seychellois are spending their money in their country, and they remain conscious that they need to be careful of their environment for their children and grandchildren to enjoy the fruits of their labor. It is not an EIA [environmental impact assessment] that will impose the need for a Seychellois to protect his own business and its environment. They will do it because it is theirs. So the time has arrived to remove obstacles, barriers, and painful let down[s] by government agents paid by Seychellois sweat to place hurdle after hurdle to stop Seychellois from claiming their country’s tourism industry as they happily accept gifts to approve a project application lodged by a foreign group. The Planning Board must update how the new jetty on Cerf Island has got through the planning permits.
“The Seychelles tourism trade welcomes the President’s announcement, and we respectfully ask that he sees through on the promises now made. Simplify the process and give the Seychellois a chance to be involved without any obstacle. We shall follow up on all applications that are stuck at Planning, and we undertake to keep you personally updated.
“The SHTA must also say thank you for the President’s decision to include an asociation member in his delegation for the next official overseas visit. We are the pillar of the country’s economy, and we are pleased with this move. Our CEO, Ms. Jenifer Sinon, has been named to travel with the Presidential Delegation on the next overseas state visit.
“The feel good factor for our association continues to be felt with our request for a meeting with the President being accepted. This face-to-face meeting will enable us to air the views and aspirations of our members. We shall take up our members’ concerns, and we shall use this opportunity to challenge decisions that we feel have stopped progress in our industry. The small hotel on La Digue was stopped from licensing a room only because she had decided to use material from a ‘container’ to make her room thief proof. From the Cote D’Or, Praslin, [a] self-catering villa is still waiting for permission to have a three-bedroom house pulled down to be replaced by a more stylish block of rooms that would match the rest of their property. Everything brought to us will be tabled at this meeting or in future meetings.
“The board of directors of the Seychelles Tourism Board has met again after a lapse of over a year. Congratulations to the new chairman, Mr. Barry Faure for showing at the first meeting that he will be working with his board members and not in isolation. We wish you well, Mr. Faure, and we again say we appreciate the way you chaired the first meeting held since over a year.
“Seychelles is more than just sun, sea, and sand, the President said. He is, of course, right. We need to develop our other unique selling points. Let us relook at our nature trails, because they are today in a bad state. Let us relook at the parks and gardens and bring value to these national assets. There are more ways to make money than just big entrance fees. Let us relook at access to our unique beaches, to affordable transport to our islands, because we are not a one-island destination. Let us relook at making business easy and remove the GOP nightmare once and for all. This single issue is rated as being 80 percent of our difficulties that make our tourism operation more difficult than it should be. Should the President announce a departure from the past just on this issue, confidence will be felt and the feeling that yes, we have turned round the corner in our road to consolidating our tourism industry.
“Finally, it must be said that the time has arrived to relook at transport between Mahe, Praslin, La Digue, and the other islands. The different applicable rate structure is a source of annoyance. Something must be done to encourage visitors and Seychellois to continue to visit these islands, and this something is to assist the operators so that they have possibility to relook at their fees.”