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Public consultation meetings on carrying capacity study of the Seychelles tourism sector kick off | 13 February 2020

Public consultation meetings on carrying capacity study of the Seychelles tourism sector kick off

Ms Zapata leading the meeting on Saturday (Photo: Thomas Meriton)

Members of the public were on Saturday invited to the first in a series of consultation meetings at the STC conference centre, in which they were introduced to the carrying capacity study on the tourism sector in Seychelles, in response to the increasing volume of tourists arriving on the islands.

The study, commissioned by the Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine in partnership with the Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Foundation (SSTF), is in line with the development of the framework of the Seychelles Tourism Master Plan (2018) and is being carried out by non-profit organisation, Sustainable Travel International (STI).

As international tourist arrivals have more than doubled over the past 20 years, with a record of 361,844 tourists in 2018, this increase is putting significant pressure on capacity in terms of accommodation and the study seeks to evaluate the impacts of tourism on local communities. Therefore it has become necessary to review the implications of growing tourism numbers and evaluate potential changes in planning and management to achieve desired conditions within the tourism industry.

During Saturday’s meeting, project leader from STI, Paloma Zapata, explained that the public’s views are crucial to guide the planning and management of the visitors flow for the continued mainstreaming of sustainable practices in the tourism industry.

Together with her team, Ms Zapata presented a snapshot of the current situation in Seychelles and the impacts of tourism on society and the environment. Members of the public and other stakeholders present were also invited to partake in small individual and group exercises to discuss issues and put forth their ideas as to what the ideal conditions are, and the path forward.

“Travel and tourism has the power to change the places of those host destinations for better or for worse. Tourism can contribute to a lot of environmental problems such as over-consumption of natural resources, degradation of eco-systems, excess waste and pollution that destinations are not able to manage and harm wildlife and loss of biodiversity. It can also harm communities, and can impact on quality of life for locals, it can displace local communities,” Ms Zapata said.

“The income from tourism is not necessarily distributed to the community so there is value in it, it is not trickling down to the community. And there can be local values, heritage. However, it can also be a very powerful tool to combat those same issues,” Ms Zapata explained.

Noting the potential for sustainable and inclusive tourism, Ms Zapata noted the positive transformative impacts of tourism to empower communities, tackle waste and pollution, combat climate change and safeguard nature.

“Tourism can be a tool for supporting environmental conservation and protection of the natural and sensitive environments. It can provide more inclusive and greater income opportunity for a society. It can also drive economic growth sustainably and even support destination development,” she said.

Through the activities and feedback given by participants during the consultative meetings, desktop research, surveys, voluntary GPS tracking of visitors, issues and defining indicators can be established, in order to track trends in the present and in future and the impact of the tourism sector on society.

The officials from STI are hoping that the key tourism capacity priority issues can be identified, the desired conditions and thresholds established and to make recommendations on the model of growth for tourism in the Seychelles in order to maintain these desired conditions.

“The desired outcome of the study is a balanced industry where you have a quality visitor experience, without losing the environment protection and conservation, without losing the resident quality of life, and with an economic to the tourism sector and to the society,” Ms Zapata noted.

The STI team is scheduled to meet more stakeholders during the coming week through consultations on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue with both the public and private sector. Considering there was not much opportunity for open discussions during Saturday’s meeting, SSTF and STI have decided to include ample time for open discussions at future meets.

STI a non-profit organisation that is mission driven to protect and conserve the planet’s most vulnerable destinations by transforming tourism impacts on nature and people from negative to positive. The organisation partners with destinations and all stakeholders in their journey towards a sustainable future and has worked in over 100 destinations worldwide and with extensive experience with island nations.

 

Laura Pillay

 

 

 

 

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