Seychelles' tourism minister calls for more opportunities for cultural tourism spending
A traditional museum on Praslin giving visitors the chance to experience and live the island nation's heritage. (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency
Between January and May of this year, 87.27 percent of tourists' spending in the Seychelles' economy went towards accommodation, figures from the Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS) show.
This figure was announced in the Tourism Department's mid-year marketing meeting on Tuesday.
The remaining 12.73 percent was spent on other services such as restaurants, travel agents, car rentals, and other tourist-related businesses.
The tourism minister, Sylvestre Radegonde, said in his opening address that this cannot carry on and that the country needs to do better.
"That is why over the past two years we have been working on a programme which we now call cultural tourism or community tourism, through which we will get visitors away from hotels, beaches, and the sea, and get them to spend in the community," said Radegonde.
From the start of 2022 until the end of May, the country has made over $223 million in terms of tourism earnings. As of June 2022, Seychelles has welcomed 153,609 visitors to its shores this year. Involving the community in the tourism industry is expected to provide visitors with activities to do and hence diversify the products on offer.
In her interview with the press, the principal secretary for tourism, Sherin Francis, said that "when we talk about product diversification, one of the elements we are aiming for is cultural tourism."
"We are working closely with other departments of the government to re-introduce bazaars and authentic experiences. During the second half of the year, some of these activities will start taking place and they will be recurrent activities on the calendar," said Francis.
The Tourism Department sees cultural tourism as an opportunity given to the people in the community to participate in the tourism industry which is the top contributor to the economy of Seychelles.
A piece of key information the tourism ministry wants everyone involved in the tourism industry to keep in mind is that there is a difference between getting tourists to spend more and overpricing goods and services to take more of their money. Ensuring that visitors get value for money remains the biggest challenge that the ministry faces.
"When it comes to prices, there are works being carried out to revise the standard rate that taxi charges clients. Once this is public, we will on our part ensure that this information is published so that visitors can get access to them. By doing this, they will be in a better place to make an informed decision when they are in the country," said Francis.
"We need to also keep in mind, however, that we are more or less in a free market and we cannot force an operator within the industry to say that this is the price at which their services should be charged. We want all our operators to realise that the industry is very fragile as our competitors have already opened their doors to visitors, and providing value for money," she continued.
Further statistics on the tourism industry of Seychelles were also shared with participants who were present at the meeting. France, Germany, and Russia have been Seychelles' top three markets, for the first half of 2022. A total of 21,521 French visitors landed in Seychelles, followed by 18,374 German citizens and 15,315 Russians.
With the 153,609 visitors who landed in Seychelles for the first six months of the year, the 115-island archipelago in the western Indian Ocean is on the path to exceeding last year's total which stood at 182,849 visitors.
The tourism department forecasts that the country will end the year with around 258,000 visitors. This figure is the country's best-case scenario for the year, which also represents about two-thirds of visitors' arrival numbers in 2019 – the best year so far for the industry – when the island nation welcomed over 428,000 visitors to its shores.
This mid-year marketing meeting was the first face-to-face meeting since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of the meeting was to reunite local trade partners and destination marketing representatives based locally and overseas to discuss the various important developments in the markets for Seychelles and the strategy for the coming six months.