Seychelles' 2 main islands reach carrying capacity - change of use permits on hold
The study covered various areas concerning sustainable tourism development. (Gerard Larose)
Findings from the latest tourism carrying capacity study for Seychelles' two main islands, Mahe and Praslin, show that the island nation's roads, sea and airport functionings are at capacity, said a top official on Wednesday.
Conducted by Sustainable Travel International, the study covered various areas concerning sustainable tourism development such as infrastructure, the environment, beach density as well as the effects of tourism on hotspots.
The study revealed that popular beaches, such as Beau Vallon on the main island of Mahe and Anse Source D'Argent on La Digue, are very crowded, leading officials to now determine ways to better manage them in the future.
The principal secretary of tourism, Sherin Francis, told reporters that "the results of the study will allow us to work on sustainable tourism regulations."
Among the regulations to be drafted is the strategic accommodation development plan.
Another aspect the study has determined is that the focus of investment mainly on accommodation facilities has led to little innovation in terms of the visitor experience.
"There has been a shift in room categories, 41 percent are self-catering, 34 percent in big hotels, with the remaining percentages covering medium and small hotels as well as guest houses," explained Francis.
According to the officials, the Department of Tourism receives three change of use applications for accomodation per week.
Change of use is when individuals owning houses apply for a license to use their accommodations as self-catering tourism establishments.
Francis expressed concern at the shift as "these types of establishments are only charging the bare minimum, thus attracting tourists who will not spend much to contribute to the economy."
She said it costs Seychelles to host visitors in terms of utilities and other services, "creating the need to have high yield visitors who can contribute towards the costs. This is why we are pushing for Seychellois interested in investing in the tourism sector to diversify the products they provide."
This is especially in the areas of small boutique hotels and in providing cultural experiences, in addition to adding value to the products already on offer.
Tourism Seychelles' data collected over an array of platforms, such as TripAdvisor, show that as a destination the island nation is lacking in leisure and nightlife.
"With the latest projects the government is putting forward such as the Beau Vallon Promenade development, we are hoping to tackle this issue," Francis added.
Meanwhile, the existing moratorium, which came into force on August 1, 2021, on the construction of large hotels of 24 rooms and more, is still in force unless the project is already in the pipeline. No additional permits are being issued.
Following the recommendations, the tourism department has also put on hold the issuing of change of use permits until the next study is carried out.
Francis said that now that the authorities have the data to work with "we will be working on a framework to collect figures and monitor the various snapshots provided."
A carrying capacity was already carried out for La Digue, the third most populated island of Seychelles from 2019 to 2021. Results from the carrying study that came out in 2021 also identified these pressures as deficient utility services, lack of proper waste management system, and the landfill operating at capacity.
As part of recommendations brought forward after a study was carried out for the construction of new tourism accommodations and applications for change of use.