A leading Western Australian tourism expert said other islands can learn valuable lessons in policy and planning for sustainable tourism development from the Republic of Seychelles. Curtin University Professor of Tourism, Jack Carlsen, has recently returned from the idyllic archipelago he visited, to prepare a case study for a book to be published in collaboration with the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
“The Seychelles is probably the best example of sustainable island tourism in the world, particularly from an ecological and social perspective,” Professor Carlsen said, “Government and the community have worked together to conserve more than 50 percent of the terrestrial environment, as well as protecting the marine environment upon which the tourism industry depends.”
Professor Carlsen met with the new Minister of Tourism and Culture in the Seychelles, Mr. Alain St.Ange, to discuss his vision for sustainable tourism in the Seychelles. He also gathered information regarding the recently endorsed Tourism Masterplan for the Seychelles, as well as the Sustainable Tourism Label certification program, aimed at encouraging tourism businesses to adopt ecologically-sensitive and socially-responsible practices.
They use a community-based approach to encourage local people to take ownership, create opportunities for locally-owned small business, and for locals to be environmental custodians in the Seychelles. In Tourism and Culture Minister Alain St.Ange’s own words, “We cannot have tourism if it is not sustainable.”
Ecological, socio-cultural, and economic sustainability are all equally important and supported by the Seychelles Master Plan. The aim is to ensure that all Seychellois people benefit from tourism through ownership or involvement in small business (small hotels, car hire, tour companies, restaurants), although some foreign ownership is encouraged to diversify the product offering, for example in restaurants and private island resorts.
Also, the Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label was recently launched, with an incentive for tourism businesses to complete sustainability assessment in return for promotional benefits through the Seychelles Tourism Board. Although the SSTL accreditation scheme remains voluntary, it is hoped that these promotional benefits will ensure uptake.
The Seychelles has always valued and protected its natural environment, and has the highest proportion of land reserved as protected areas, as well as a series of marine-protected areas. Activities such as spear fishing have long been banned in the Seychelles. However, access to beaches remains unrestricted for all Seychellois people, even on private islands where clauses have been written into land titles to ensure that local fisherman can still land on those islands. In this way, the traditional way of life in the Seychelles is preserved, while maximizing the economic, social, and environmental benefits of tourism.
“With island tourism developing around the world, we can look to the Seychelles as an example on how to successfully balance sustainability with quality tourism development,” Prof. Carlsen concluded.