As part of Seychelles’ participation in the UNWTO’s 25th General Assembly, the Minister for Tourism, Mr Sylvestre Radegonde, alongside the Principal Secretary for Tourism, Sherin Francis, the Director for Strategic Planning, Chris Matombe, and the Protocol Officer at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Danio Vidot attended the UNWTO Statistical Committee meeting.
Seychelles has served on the statistical committee since 2019, holding the position of Vice Chair from 2020 to 2023. The committee, a subsidiary advisory body of the Executive Council, is tasked to help member states improve their national systems of tourism statistics and develop their Tourism Satellite Account (TSA).
The current focal point of the committee’s work is the development of a statistical framework for Measuring Sustainability in Tourism (MST), now in its pilot stage. MST responds to the request of the UNWTO member states and the UN General Assembly for a statistical approach to monitor Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) concerning the role of tourism. The framework was thus developed, aiming to assess the status of tourism sustainability and measure progress towards sustainable development.
This initiative holds prime importance as Seychelles focuses on Tourism Carrying Capacity recommendations, highlighting the need to address current and future challenges with further growth in tourism in the country.
In his intervention, Minister Radegonde emphasised the need to manage tourism at the destination level, stating, “We are currently closely managing the room stock of larger hotel developments to ensure that the destination does not grow beyond our capacity to sustain or manage.”
Managing the quantity and distribution of beds in the destination, as well as the flow of visitors is vital to address concerns related to overtourism. Minister Radegonde stressed that the real challenge is not merely the number of visitors but the ability to manage them efficiently and maximise the value derived from their visits. To accomplish this, it is imperative to establish measurement indicators, data sources and a framework of measurement that is recognised by the United Nations.
Minister Radegonde further elaborated on Seychelles’ strategy to promote higher value, lower impact tourism, taking into account the country’s infrastructural limitations. He added, “We need to find ways to get more value out of each visitor if we want our destination to remain sustainable. To achieve this, we need to improve the level and standards of our products, diversify our product offerings, offer more experiences, notably cultural experiences that can bring visitors closer to the community.”
While Seychelles has made great strides in environmental conservation, there is still much more work to be done in other sustainability areas, such as water, energy, and waste management, creating meaningful connections between tourism and the community, and raising awareness of sustainability amongst tourism employees and operators.
Sherin Francis, Principal Secretary for Tourism, presented the Sustainable Seychelles programme in its launching phase, aimed at mainstreaming sustainability initiatives and raising awareness within the tourism industry. The programme builds upon the success of the Sustainability Label programme, which has been in existence for a decade.
Seychelles has secured its seat on the UNWTO Statistics Committee for another term and is expected to play a more active role in the pilot implementation of MST. As one of the countries that currently has a TSA framework, Seychelles will also be offering its support to other member states throughout the process.