Diving into Seychelles’ tourism progress: A paradise with a purpose

Discover the country’s sustainability and conservation efforts
Diving into Seychelles’ tourism progress: A paradise with a purpose
H.E. Sylvestre Radegonde, minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Seychelles

Seychelles, a gem of an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, may be the smallest African country by area, but it has one of the most diverse tourism offerings on the continent. The island nation has some of the best beaches. It also takes pride in its unique biodiversity, complemented by a rich cultural heritage that turns vacations into memorable learning experiences.

In this exclusive interview with Economy Middle East, Sylvestre Radegonde, minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Seychelles, talks about the country’s sustainability and conservation efforts. He also discusses investment opportunities and the nation’s partnership with other governments in the region, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

What sets the Republic of Seychelles apart from other destinations? What new developments can the world look forward to?

Boasting a unique biodiversity, Seychelles is home to a broad range of flora and fauna, including many species that are endemic to the islands. The Aldabra Giant Tortoise, the Seychelles Black Parrot, and the Coco de Mer palm are just a few examples of the unique wildlife that can be found in Seychelles.

Seychelles is also known for its stunning white sandy beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters. These beaches are often ranked among the best in the world, offering visitors the perfect spot to relax and unwind.

Additionally, the country takes pride in its remote and secluded islands. Seychelles is made up of 115 islands, many of which are uninhabited and offer a sense of seclusion and tranquility that is hard to find in other tourist destinations. Visitors can explore remote islands, go snorkeling in pristine waters, and enjoy the natural beauty of the Seychelles archipelago.

Being an archipelagic nation, Seychelles is also a global leader in marine conservation, with 50 percent of its terrestrial areas dedicated to conservation and 30 percent of its marine time territory as equally protected. Visitors can participate in marine conservation activities, such as coral reef monitoring and turtle conservation programs, and learn about the importance of protecting the oceans for future generations.

In Seychelles, visitors can also find a range of luxury resorts and eco-friendly accommodations that cater to all types of travelers. From private villas on secluded islands to eco-friendly lodges nestled in the lush forest, the country has something for everyone.

To top it all off, Seychelles has a rich cultural heritage that is influenced by a mix of African, European, and Asian traditions. Visitors can explore traditional Creole architecture, sample delicious Creole cuisine, and experience vibrant local music and dance performances.

What are some key investment opportunities in Seychelles?

In 2023, the Seychelles administration announced nine key sectors for investment. These include establishing roofing, off-grid and floating photovoltaic systems, eco-tourism development, and smart renewable energy value chains. Other prioritized areas are cultural tourism, cold storage, fish processing, and agricultural products for export.

The government emphasized that, apart from these priority sectors, investors are welcome to invest in any other areas. Additionally, investors have the option to collaborate on projects. The Seychelles Investor Map, developed by the Ministry of Investment, Entrepreneurship and Industry, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other local stakeholders, will be hosted on the UNDP website and linked to other local websites.

Seychelles Island

Seychelles has long been at the forefront of sustainability and environmental conservation. What initiatives are you working on currently?

Tourism is a part of our local history, and it is used to help not just the environment but also their people and history via education and poverty reduction.

We are working on diversifying our product offering as part of our sustainable approaches to developing our industry while remaining involved with our local community. We are doing this not only to attract different types of visitors and cater to their various interests and preferences but also to provide visitors with unique, locally made souvenirs and experiences at affordable prices. All this will contribute to the local economy.

Various NGOs and tourism businesses also collaborate with local schools to improve conservation and environmental protection knowledge. They help boost activism among young students in order to inspire a future where they may continue to engage actively with their community.

The country is also deeply committed to particularly conserving its oceans. Concentrated efforts are being made at various levels, spanning government organizations, businesses, non-profits, and even our citizens, to become one of the most sustainable destinations for travelers.

Despite its limited land mass, approximately 50 percent of Seychelles is designated as a nature reserve, like the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Moreover, with a vast Exclusive Economic Zone encompassing 1.365 million square kilometers — of which 30 percent is a protected area — the country has embraced the Blue Economy concept, fostering an integrated approach to sustainable development centered around ocean-based initiatives.

In 2018, Seychelles launched the World’s First Sovereign Blue Bond, strategically aimed at mobilizing resources to empower local communities and businesses, promoting a shift toward sustainable practices. We also appreciate and encourage various initiatives led by NGOs and local communities that contribute actively to environmental conservation, such as the Seychelles Island Foundation, which spearheads numerous conservation programs that safeguard the nation’s distinct biodiversity. One such program is the Cousin Island Special Reserve, a small yet crucial sanctuary that serves as a habitat for various endangered species, including the Seychelles Warbler, Hawksbill Turtle, and Green Turtle.

Can you share some of your best practices for conservation initiatives?

In line with the country’s conservation efforts, NGOs like Nature Seychelles stands as another prominent entity dedicated to environmental preservation and ecotourism. They offer an array of eco-friendly activities, encompassing birdwatching, turtle monitoring, and coral reef restoration projects. Striving to minimize negative impacts on the environment, their eco-friendly accommodations — comprising beachfront bungalows and eco-lodges — provide both comfort and authentic Seychellois experiences.

This magnificent collection of islands is a diving hotspot, with some locations hosting one of the three largest nesting populations of Hawksbill Turtles and Green Turtles, which also inhabit the area. The Green Island Foundation, in conjunction with Denis Private Island, has successfully linked both tourism activities and environmental research. Tourists who choose to snorkel and dive in these crystal-clear mild waters can contribute to research on in-water turtle populations by filling out a research field form on the island. Guests are invited and more than welcome to join the conservation team on their daily turtle patrol on the pure white beaches, or to participate in other activities.

Meanwhile, The Alphonse Island Lodge, in collaboration with the Island Conservation Society (ICS), has established many projects to ensure that the economic advantages of tourism are returned to the island while also safeguarding the ecosystem. Guests contribute to the work of the island’s conservation organization by setting aside a portion of the conservation levy income. In addition, the revenue from souvenirs purchased at their ICS office go to fund conservation activities. The ICS also provides weekly lectures to visitors that include development updates and talks about environmental issues. The goal is to make tourists aware of their influence on the environment they are visiting.

The Four Seasons Seychelles Resort also is demonstrating its dedication to sustainability through relationships with local environmental organizations, marine educators, and conservation partners, such as WiseOceans — while also encouraging education and participation opportunities for their guests. WiseOcean, among other programs, invites children as young as four years old to learn about the secrets of the sea, both above and under the waves, by organizing private marine education workshops.

Our most recent luxury product Wardolf Astoria boasts a diverse ecosystem, serving as breeding grounds for seabirds and a cherished nesting area for hawksbill turtles. With the goal of achieving zero environmental impact, the resort aims to cultivate its own food and consistently explores inventive solutions to reduce its environmental footprint. Guided by an on-site environmental manager and marine biologist, they have adopted a holistic and conscientious approach to all aspects of our operations. From the spa to the restaurants, every item consumed and utilized on the island is thoughtfully selected to uphold environmental friendliness, showcasing our commitment to conservation and sustainability.

Seychelles under water

What economic prospects await the island nation?

Seychelles stands out as a prime example of economic resilience and potential. With its breathtaking backdrop featuring pristine beaches, lively marine life, and rich biodiversity, Seychelles is setting a course towards sustainable growth and prosperity.

Central to Seychelles’ economy is its tourism sector, which is anticipated to continue flourishing as the country remains a sought-after destination for global travelers in search of unspoiled beaches and distinctive experiences. By prioritizing sustainable tourism practices and the conservation of its natural wonders, Seychelles is poised to draw in upscale tourists, drive revenue, and generate employment opportunities.

Moreover, by embracing the principles of the Blue Economy, Seychelles is tapping into the vast economic potential of its marine resources. Through sustainable fishing methods and marine conservation efforts, Seychelles is leading the charge in leveraging its oceanic wealth for economic gain. The Blue Economy not only promises economic advancement but also underscores Seychelles’ dedication to environmental stewardship.

The country is also dedicated to investing in infrastructure projects such as port and airport upgrades to boost trade connections and streamline logistics, further enhancing economic outlooks.

Recognizing the significance of digital advancements and innovation in diversifying the economy and enhancing productivity, Seychelles has placed a high priority on this area. The Digital Economy Agenda has been developed to digitize key processes, improve governmental and economic efficiency, enhance digital and financial infrastructure, and address current and future labor challenges. Various reforms have been introduced to encourage modernization and innovative approaches.

Seychelles’ emphasis on environmental sustainability is deeply ingrained in its development strategies. Initiatives like debt-for-nature swaps, renewable energy projects, and sustainable tourism practices underscore Seychelles’ commitment to harmonizing economic growth with environmental protection. By embracing green initiatives, Seychelles is safeguarding its natural treasures for generations to come.

While Seychelles has promising economic prospects for the future, it faces challenges as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS). Like many other SIDS, Seychelles’ delicate economy grapples with obstacles such as a small market size, vulnerability to global economic fluctuations, and exposure to external shocks like changes in commodity prices, variations in tourism demand, and disruptions to trade patterns. Seychelles possesses the potential to expand its economy and elevate its citizens’ living standards through strategic planning, investments, and sustainable development strategies. The country remains steadfast in its commitment to implementing a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index to reinforce socio-economic progress, not only for itself but for all SIDS alike.

The Republic of Seychelles has long enjoyed close ties with the UAE. What’s been the driving force behind that?

The UAE and Seychelles have cultivated a multifaceted relationship characterized by economic cooperation, strategic partnerships, cultural exchange, diplomatic ties, and shared interests.

The UAE’s investments in Seychelles’ tourism industry and infrastructure have bolstered the country’s economic development. Moreover, both nations have recognized the significance of collaborating on security and defense, particularly in light of Seychelles’ strategic location in the Indian Ocean. Cultural exchanges, tourism initiatives, and educational programs have further deepened the bond between the two countries, underpinned by cordial diplomatic relations marked by regular high-level visits and dialogues.

With a shared commitment to regional stability, economic progress, and sustainable growth, Seychelles and the UAE have demonstrated a strong and enduring relationship built on mutual respect and understanding.

The Seychelles

Can you also share any regional cooperation and partnerships that are contributing significantly to Seychelles’ growth?

Tourism Seychelles is actively engaged in several key initiatives and partnerships across the Middle East and GCC regions that significantly contribute to the growth and development of our tourism sector. These collaborations are designed to enhance brand awareness, attract more visitors, and create mutually beneficial relationships with various stakeholders. Here are some of the notable efforts:

  • Partnerships with tour operators: We have established strong partnerships with leading tour operators in the GCC, both offline and online. These collaborations include joint marketing campaigns, training sessions for travel agents, and the development of exclusive travel packages tailored to the preferences of tourists from this region. By working closely with both traditional and digital tour operators, we ensure that Seychelles is prominently featured in their offerings, making it easier for travelers to choose Seychelles as their preferred destination.
  • Participation in regional events and trade shows: Tourism Seychelles regularly participates in major travel and tourism events across the GCC, such as the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai. These events provide an excellent platform for us to showcase the unique attractions of Seychelles, network with industry professionals, and forge new partnerships. Our presence at these events helps to raise awareness about Seychelles and strengthens our brand position in the market.
  • Collaborative marketing campaigns: We run targeted marketing campaigns in collaboration with airlines, hospitality groups, and travel platforms operating in the Middle East. These campaigns leverage various channels, including digital marketing, social media, and traditional media, to reach a wider audience. By partnering with well-known brands and leveraging their reach, we amplify our promotional efforts and attract more visitors from the region.
  • Direct flights and improved connectivity: Strengthening air connectivity between Seychelles and the GCC has been a priority. We have worked closely with airlines to increase the number of direct flights to Seychelles, making it more accessible for travelers from the GCC. Enhanced connectivity has had a significant positive impact on tourist arrivals, contributing to the growth of the tourism sector.
  • Customized experiences for GCC tourists: Understanding the unique preferences and cultural requirements of tourists from the GCC, we have developed customized experiences and packages that cater to their needs. These include halal food options, family-friendly activities, and luxury offerings that appeal to the high-end market. By providing tailored experiences, we ensure that visitors from the GCC have a memorable and comfortable stay in Seychelles.

Additionally, the UAE has cooperated with Seychelles on maritime security initiatives, particularly through the provision of assets to assist in combating piracy and other illicit activities in the Indian Ocean. This collaboration has helped enhance Seychelles’ maritime security capabilities and contribute to regional stability.

Seychelles beauty

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