In a ceremony held at State House on Thursday 22nd of August, President Danny Faure gave his assent to the Tourism Development ACT. The ceremony was assisted by Minister Didier Dogley – Minister for Tourism Civil Aviation, Ports & Marine, Mr David Esparon – Deputy Attorney General, Mrs Aude Labaleine – Secretary of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr Mohamed Affif – Secretary of State Cabinet Affairs, Mrs Anne Lafortune – Principal Secretary Department of Tourism, Mrs Sherin Francis – Chief Executive Officer of the Seychelles Tourism Board and senior officials of the Department of Tourism.
In his address at the ceremony, Minister Didier Dogley said,
“Today, with the signing of the Tourism Development Act, 2019, we have reached a major milestone in putting into place the necessary institutional framework required for the effective development of this important industry. For the first time, since tourism began, we have an ACT: an Act that will ensure the primary activities of tourism are governed by a legal instrument and have the required force of law for its implementation. This significantly changes the status quo.
The Tourism Development Act, 2019, does not exist in isolation but it is an essential part of a three tool package. These are the existing set of policies, the tourism master plan that we approved in 2018 and the Tourism Strategy and action plan.
Together they provide an enabling environment for the sector to flourish and grow. These documents provide clarity to professionals in both the public and private sectors and investors can have the confident and comfort of investing their money in a country where all the policies, laws and strategic plans are clearly spelt out in documents that are at their disposal.
Over decades the tourism industry did not have a comprehensive legislative framework. National policies provided guidance to investors, tourism operators and indirectly acted as legal instruments in regulating tourism activities. Today with major shifts in the socio-economic situation in the country, it has become necessary to have a comprehensive legislative framework for this sector.
The objective here is not to restrict, limit and control the tourism industry but as its name imply, to create an enabling environment to facilitate the development of the sector by providing clear guidance and setting clear parameters for all those involved or have intensions in joining the industry. As a framework act it is a comprehensive legal instrument providing simplicity and clarity, replacing the past practices of having an otherwise complex set of pieces of legislation.
The Tourism Development Act, 2019, has as its main objectives to develop and implement policies, to guide the sustainable development and growth of the industry, to develop and establish minimum standards for the different tourism operations and to raise and improve quality standards and services within the accommodation sector through a hotel grading program.
It contains 8 parts and they are as follows; Part 1 of the Bill sets out the list of definitions, Part 2 states the objects of the ACT, Part 3 covers administration and gives the ministry the power to establish through regulations agencies and authorities as and when this may be needed. Part 4 allows the ministry to develop and implement policies, Part 5 provides for the development and implementation of a hotel classification system, Part 6 makes provision for an appeals board for the classification programme. Part 7 covers compliance and Part 8 is the Miscellaneous Section.
The enabling sections of special interest are part 4, 5, 6 and 7. Part 4 allows the ministry to develop and implement policies. The existing policies reflected in the ACT cover accommodation establishment, Boat Charters, Dive centres, Dive operators, restaurants, Tour guides, tour operators, Travel agents, Vertical Integration, Watersports and Yacht charters.
In part 5, it makes provision for the development and implementation of a Hotel grading programme. An established grading system allows discerning visitors to know any hotel’s standard in advance and what to expect of the product offering before making a purchase. Hotel classification is promoted globally as a means to maintain standards and achieve sustainability within the accommodation sector. Most of our visitors, in particular Europeans, are accustom to it and expect to find it here also. For us to maintain our position as an attractive destination and improve our reputation to become a destination offering great visitor experience and value for money, it is necessary that we improve our standards and service levels to match the image of Seychelles we are selling.
This ACT makes classification of all large hotels (51 rooms and above) mandatory. For hotels between 50 and 16 rooms classification will be voluntary but the Tourism Department will have a marketing and educational program to encourage all our hotels to apply for grading.
The ACT under part 6 makes provision for an appeals board to adjudicate any complaints that an accommodation operator may have with regards to a grade it is issued.
And as is the case with all legal instruments there is a component on compliance and miscellaneous. Compliance refers to the set minimum requirements that all accommodation establishments and tourism enterprises must meet in order to obtain a license. These include disaster preparedness and risk management procedures and processes, provision for submission of timely information as and when required by the ministry, appropriate display of grades issued and actions to be taken where operators falsely advertise a grade.
Getting to where we are today has been a long and interesting journey which has involved consultation with the Attorney General’s Office, relevant government agencies, the private sector, the general public and the National Assembly.
I wish to thank the president for initiating the elaboration of the Tourism Development Act, 2019, our staff led by PS Lafortune for having worked diligently at it and all those who contributed towards its enactment into law.
To conclude, this Bill makes provision to give legal powers to the Department of Tourism to better discharge its duties towards the attainment of a sustainable tourism industry and in doing so provide for the empowerment and the creation of wealth for our people.”
Today’s event marks an accomplishment for the Department of Tourism, as it plans its future activities with renewed energy to better manage and guide the development of the sector.