Highlights of tourism department in 2020 | 31 December 2020
In spite of being a difficult year during which the Covid-19 pandemic paralysed economic development and growth in all sectors, in particular the tourism sector which has been brought to its knees, the department of tourism takes a look back and highlights some of its main achievements and challenges during 2020.
Carrying capacity study
The ministry responsible for tourism commissioned an independent consultant to undertake a carrying capacity study on La Digue as well as a separate carrying capacity study for Mahé and Praslin. The aim of the studies is to take stock of tourism development on the islands and propose measures to ensure that the industry is developing in a sustainable manner.
The studies, which are in the final phases will make recommendations for achieving sustainable development within the tourism sector, including whether the current moratorium on the development of hotels in excess of 25 rooms should be maintained, lifted or reviewed further.
Tourism satellite account
The tourism department embarked on the second phase of the development of the tourism satellite account. Through technical assistance from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and with close collaboration with the National Bureau of Statistics, the project, which has been overlaid over a three-year period, aims at providing an integrated system to measure the size of the contribution of the tourism sector to the economy, thereby allowing valid comparisons to other industries.
This development of Seychelles’ tourism satellite account comes at an opportune time following Seychelles becoming a member as well as assuming vice chairmanship of the UNTWO committee on statistics, a subsidiary advisory body of the UNWTO executive council. The aim of the body is to propose initiatives related to the design and implementation of tourism statistics international standards and assist member countries in their initiatives to develop and improve their respective tourism satellite account.
Cruise tourism strategy
A strategy pertaining to the development of cruise tourism in a sustainable manner is to be developed in 2021. The aim of the strategy is to ensure that the cruise tourism industry in Seychelles is profitable and well managed, taking port capacity, site crowding, local economic benefits, and environmental resources into consideration. This shall therefore guide the sector as to how to reap the maximum benefit from cruise tourists without adversely affecting other types of tourism.
Impact of climate change on the tourism industry
In early January 2020, the Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine in collaboration with its partners developed and launched its first guide on climate change entitled ‘Preparing for climate change in the tourism sector’ to raise awareness and educate tourism operators on the negative impacts of climate change on the tourism sector. The objective is to build the capacity of the tourism sector to respond to hazards associated with climate change.
This is crucial to improve the resilience of each and every tourism business to adapt to natural hazards by integrating climate smart methods in their business operation. It is important to emphasise that quite a number of tourism activities and services that are important for tourism development depend on specific climate and weather conditions. If Seychelles wants to successfully achieve sustainable tourism growth, it is critical that tourism operators understand the implication of climate change on the tourism sector.
Seychelles’ sustainable tourism label and product diversification
The Seychelles sustainable tourism label (SSTL) is a voluntary certification scheme for accommodation businesses. It is designed specifically for Seychelles and is recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). The programme aims to mainstream sustainability in the accommodation sector and eventually to other tourism sectors.
There are currently 21 SSTL-certified hotels. The section has recertified 12 accommodation businesses with the Seychelles sustainable tourism Label. The majority of establishments now have a certain understanding of sustainability concepts and a good number are implementing different sustainability practices even if they are not certified.
The Seychelles tourism product offering remains limited to traditional products such as accommodation, car hire and boat charters. There is a need to diversify to other more experiential activities, such as adventure, cultural and community-based tourism as a way to increase visitor spending and to bring more benefits to the communities.
Investment in these areas need to be facilitated through clear guidelines and policies to ensure a tourism sector that is vibrant and inclusive.
The unit undertook an audit of tourism activities and developed a database. A draft proposal for product diversification was developed and presented to the trade, key MDAs and focus groups through workshops and one on one meetings.
The draft proposal with the recommendations from the consultative meetings will be submitted to government early 2021.
Hotel classification programmes help destinations in maintaining their competitiveness when it comes to the accommodation sector. It helps to raise standards in the sector and encourages more value for money.
The Tourism Development Act, which was assented to in 2019, gives the department of tourism the power to implement a hotel grading programme. It further makes star grading mandatory for all hotel establishments with more than 50 rooms. However, the programme is also available on a voluntary basis to hotels of 50 rooms and fewer, while the Seychelles Secrets grading is available on a voluntary basis to all other accommodation establishments.
Following the assent of the Act, the year 2020 has been spent drafting the tourism development (Standards) regulations and their different schedules, which include the criteria for the different standards, the minimum requirements and the procedures for implementation. The department has liaised with the Attorney General’s office on amendments of these documents which are expected to be completed by the beginning of 2021, following which, the grading programme will be officially launched.
Main activities of the section in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic
2020 was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which required a new way of doing business and new procedures and protocols adopted for the tourism industry. To meet these new needs, the section has had to rearrange its activities. As part of its preparedness activities to come up with a recovery plan for the tourism sector as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a high level taskforce has been set up by the ministry responsible for tourism. The taskforce comprises senior officers from public health and the department of tourism, together with other organisations representing both the public and private sectors. The taskforce meets regularly to discuss and put in place Covid-19 health-related measures and develop procedures which are imperative for the safe re-opening of the international airport to welcome commercial flights.
Tourism operators also started preparing their establishments and businesses to welcome their first clients. The department guided them to develop their standard operating procedures (SOPs) to meet all Covid-19 new normal health norms and be health safe certified to welcome their first clients.
The other activities were not limited to:
o Developing in consultation with Public Health Authority the guidelines and protocols for all tourism businesses and activities which were shared with all businesses;
o Developing checklists and criteria for both category 1 and 2 hotels.
o Providing technical assistance to businesses to develop their individual standard operating procedures through advisory visits, one to one meetings and workshops;
o Assessing all SOPs from the tourism businesses, conducting assessments of businesses and making necessary recommendations to PHA for issuance of safe certificate.
o Liaising with respective tourism businesses to issue them with their safe tourism certificates;
o Developing and maintaining a database of all certified tourism businesses which are uploaded on the website, while the updated list of category 1 and category 2 businesses are shared on a daily basis with relevant MDAs;
o Preparing statistics of certified businesses and number of visitors received at certified accommodation according to their type and size.
There are currently 714 tourism establishments in Seychelles, making a total of 13,292 available beds. Out of this, a total of 521 establishments have been safe certified for category 1 from July 2020 to date. A further 167 establishments were inspected and approved for Category 2.
Contributed by the department of tourism