Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are a group 57 of small island countries  – were recognized as a distinct group of developing countries in June 1992, by UN – that tend to share similar sustainable development challenges, including small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments. Amongst its three regions are Caribbean, Pacific Islands, and perhaps more affluent region is Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea (AIMS) and in there sits the gem of a paradise called Seychelles.

Tourism accounted for 25.5% of the Seychelles’ GDP in 2019, making it one of the most tourism dependent countries in the world.

And to discuss all this I today have immense pleasure to welcome H.E. Didier Dogley, Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, Seychelles

Only a year ago you were expressing satisfaction over the constant and gradual increase in numbers of visitors and receipt over the past 5 years.

The latest figures released by Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS) confirmed an increase in revenue for 2019 from the tourism industry amounting to 576.4 million USD equating to a little over 8 Billion Seychelles rupees.

According to your tourism counterparts in Mauritius and Maldives, Seychelles considered as the best model in the region and referred to the local policies in place as one of the key contributors to the gradual, continual and sustained growth in both visitor numbers and receipt in revenue.

Tourism Master Plan-Destination 2023 was launched with lots of bullish optimism! the plan was to safeguard the destination’s brand and image as an upmarket, selective and pristine tourism destination.

Fast forward to 2020 and Covid happens washing off most of those wins of 2019.

The IMF approved Seychelles’ request for emergency financial assistance under the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) of about US $31.2 million.

1.What’s the outlook for tourism and hospitality moving forwards? How is your country responding to the current situation? 

In May, the Seychelles declared itself Covid-19 free after nine weeks of battling the virus. The number of recorded cases was 11, all of which were found on the main island of Mahe. No cases were reported on Praslin, La Digue, Silhouette Island and the Outer Islands. For the moment, Seychelles is free from the virus and the authorities remain on high alert for any eventualities. The Public Health Authority alongside other organisations are working hard to keep citizens, expatriates and visitors safe from the pandemic. A total of 19 countries have been identified as low risk and been allowed to travel to the Islands as from 1st June.

2. Tell us IF you have had a good response from these 19 countries? And talk about some of the protocols or health and safety guidelines being launched to protect both the employees of the industry as well as the visitors with special consideration placed on enhancing infection prevention control, communication, situation monitoring, and reporting among others?

The destination will only consider elite visitors from low-risk countries travelling through private jets and chartered passenger direct flights,” and for those who prefer ocean travel ONLY Yachts and superyachts will be allowed to dock. And the biggest of all decisions The Seychelles has announced an 18-month ban on affluent cruise ships, effective immediately.

Cruise ships being the biggest carriers of the virus – The move has been met with acceptance from tourism stakeholders, even if it is understood that it will affect the country’s already struggling tourism industry. Cruise ships do not only bring visitors to its 115 islands, but also encourages spending on entertainment and foodservice, alongside accommodation and inspiration for repeat trips.

3. How long the Regular travelers should wait for travel restrictions to ease further, and are you not worried to lose some of that base? When do the regular International flight kick in to serve this middle-class segment?

Seychelles may admit Israelis as part of an initial reopening as part of an emerging arrangement fits a wider pattern of countries working bilaterally, or in small groupings/bubbles, to restore travel among themselves

Under the anticipated deal, Israelis visiting the Seychelles would be exempted from mandatory quarantine there and on returning to Israel.

4. Do you see such arrangements with perhaps other countries or even between other SIDS countries such as Singapore or Maldives and Mauritius? And what about domestic tourism local people have a decent purchasing power and although disposable income is now limited?

World Environment day was recently celebrated.

Seychelles has many reasons to celebrate this day for having achieved admirable global status in environmental and nature conservation. A lot of hard and passionate work has been invested in the conservation of the natural beauty. In addition Tourism lifted the entire region out of poverty and laid the basis for the sustainable management of the Islands unique flora fauna, both on land and in the ocean, for decades to come. However, just one example is that the Coral scientists in Seychelles – among the most renowned in the world – now face an uncertain future as monitoring and surveillance programme funds will run dry by the end of summer if nearby tourism hotspots fail to attract paying visitors.

This all comes in what was set to be a landmark year for biodiversity. The year 2020 was to be the “Super Year for Biodiversity “ culminating in a global biodiversity conference this autumn where new biodiversity targets were due to be set for the next decade.

5. What immediate measure are being taken to protect these and other natural resources of the islands?

Seychelles has had a long history of rogue investments. Its not a hidden fact but a major clean up and overhauling is required of  a long list of accommodation projects of over 3000 rooms. Having said that there is still room for plenty more sustained investments to support quality tourism and to avoid overtourism

6. Do you think there is a case to be made now to invite more inward investments by the locals? What incentives is the government providing to encourage this trend?

You being a politician I cannot help but bring up that The dates for the next presidential elections were just set for 22-24 October.  Tourism has now become the focal point of these elections, and everyone is slowly understanding that this industry is everyone’s business, even if you are not directly employed in this sector .Therefore these elections could become a magnet for a fierce competition between all sides to strike a balance between winning public trust while generate ideas into technology and innovation advancements to rebuild future tourism resources. And therein lies the silver lining to the pandemic and an opportunity to up the tourism product

7. Do you agree with and IF so which areas you foresee and opportunity?

Now on a lighter note. Seychelles very early on focused on marketing the destination back onto the tourism circuit. The first phase of this online campaign entitled: Dream Now, Experience Seychelles Later was activated on April 7, 2020, across all Seychelles destination platforms, which I believe encouraged other destinations to do similar campaigns – But there is one campaign which happened by chance and which would be hard to replicate.

A Chinese tourist has become a sensation on social media in China after he and his family were left stranded on Seychelles’ third-most populated island – La Digue – due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In conclusion:

Every crisis creates opportunities. And I believe the opportunity for this Paradise lies to give its sensitive islands resources a break – but its time to return to full capacity, to protect the same fragile resources but hopefully the lessons of this crisis makes them the healthiest, and strongest to be able to whether the next storm!! And I believe your Leadership is well focused on this strategy!

Thank you!

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