Tourism arrivals, spending and coronavirus top agenda | 08 February 2020
Progress on decisions taken at last year’s meetings, tourism arrivals and expenditure and the recent coronavirus outbreaks were just some of the points of discussion at the first multi-sectorial meeting for this year, held yesterday afternoon at National House.
Chaired by Vice-President Vincent Meriton, Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine Didier Dogley and Minister for Employment, Civil Status and Immigration Myriam Telemaque, the meeting featured three presentations with ample opportunities for the stakeholders to communicate their concerns, issues and challenges that they face as actors in the local tourism sector.
Vice-President Meriton started off by noting that last year ended on a good note on account of the six (6) percent increase in tourism arrivals, thanking the actors for their valued contributions and input during last year’s meetings and which have formed the basis of decisions taken.
“We value your contributions and your input from last year. The government is here to service the industry and we can do it at the strategic level in meetings such as this one, while also ensuring that we look at the technical issues, the operational issues that need to be looked at within the department,” said VP Meriton.
Speaking to the media, Minister Dogley noted the issues on the agenda including a report on the key issues that have been raised in the past. Among the issues and projects which were agreed upon last year, are the construction of a lay-by at Anse La Blague, Praslin, illegal hotel establishments, the national labour migration policy, crimes involving visitors, coconut vending as well as noise pollution among others. Some of the projects are already being implemented, while others are underway.
“There will be three important presentations; one is a report on all the key issues discussed during last year’s multi-sectorial meetings and the progress on implementation, to allow for the effectiveness of the meetings and whether it is really achieving its objectives. The second presentation will be by the Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS), who will provide an overview of the performance of the tourism sector over the past year, visitor arrivals as well as tourism expenditure as an indication of whether the tourism sector is healthy. We don’t want to only look at how many tourists are arriving but also the economic contribution towards the local economy. The third, by Dr Jude Gedeon, will be a situation analysis on the recent outbreak of coronavirus and how as a tourism actor we can protect Seychelles, a country which is dependent on tourism,” Minister Dogley stated.
He further noted that they want the meetings to be more strategic, where policies and strategies are discussed and strategic decisions taken that are relevant to tourism.
With regards to the policies and how they affect individuals who want to partake in economic activities in the sector, Minister Dogley noted that the authorities are in favour of many activities but are rather seeking to regulate the way such activities are conducted, so as to avoid any problems in future or the risk of affecting Seychelles’ image as a secluded and exclusive paradise.
“There are a lot of economic activities that individuals can undertake related to tourism. The ministry has already done a lot of work into how to diversify the products offered to tourists. When visitors come to visit Seychelles, we need to offer them a plethora of activities to get them to spend. We as the authorities encourage activities such as coconut vending but we want it to be done the proper way. It is not acceptable for an individual to be walking across the beach with four or five coconuts under their arm and disturbing a visitor who is resting on the beach to buy a coconut from them. If an individual is interested to sell coconuts, they should present their products on a table and the coconut opened in front of the client, where they can be sure that they are actually drinking authentic coconut water,” explained Minister Dogley.
“With regards to beach beds, it has already been discussed and the stakeholders are in agreement with the government. We are not in favour of leasing beach beds as we feel that it will bring about complications and difficulties on our beaches. Beaches are our number one selling point and other destinations like Europe and the Mediterranean, the beaches are littered with beach beds which is what prompts a tourist to opt for our shores, as expensive and as far as it is, because they do not want to see the same thing as everywhere else. So we are saying that Seychelles should be left as it is so we can differentiate ourselves from our competitors and other destinations,” Minister Dogley added.
The stakeholders also discussed the coronavirus and the measures in place to protect against the risk of the virus. As announced by the Ministry of Health over recent weeks, the department of tourism is collaborating closely with the ministry to follow guidelines and guidance against the deadly virus. The ministry is monitoring high-risk visitors who are entering the country, for instance visitors from China, taking note of their details on arrival, followed by regularly monitoring and check (at their chosen accommodation) throughout the duration of their stay as there is a 14-day period in which the virus can incubate before symptoms start showing.
Minister Dogley also called for closer collaboration between stakeholder agencies, noting the recent complaints about the inefficient service provided by lifeguards.
“We have a section that handles risk and usually we work closely with the Seychelles Maritime Safety Administration (SMSA) and with the situation that happened at Beau Vallon over the past few days, it is clear that SMSA should communicate with hotels and other establishments to at least warn clients against swimming and water activities when the weather and sea are not favourable. In general, I think there needs to be improved coordination between lifeguards and SMSA to ensure that when there are situations that are risky that we can issue warnings in time. The tourism department is already in contact with hotels in north Mahé to keep them informed about the weather and the risks it poses,” he concluded.