Seychelles – Tourism

The Seychelles are an African nation 1600km East of Kenya. It was uninhabited until the last few centuries, when it fell under French occupation. The culture is a mix of French, African, Chinese and Indian (the main ethnicities). The main industries are fishing, tourism and beverages. 74% of the population work in service industries, and 25% of the population is directly involved in the tourism industry. The official language is French (although Creole is spoken almost as widely), making it easily accessible to many tourists- English is also frequently used. The main food crops are sweet potatoes, vanilla farming, coconuts and cinnamon. They do not have any considerable secondary industries, so pollution rates are generally low.

Historical context

  • Seychelles gained independence in 1976
  • Their first airport was built in 1971- Seychelles International Airport, leading to a large increase in tourism, largely from Western celebrities
  • Some people (including the PM, Francis Rene) thought that tourism was deteriorating the economy, leading to the PM over throwing the president, intending to give the poor more money
  • Rene tried to decrease tourism to “keep the Seychelles for the Seychellois”
  • 1979 constitution said they were a one party socialist party, and the first draft was not passed
  • The PM was found to be involved in various crimes, such as money laundering and even murder
  • South Africa sent 43 mercenaries posing as Rugby players to depose Rene (known as the Seychelles Affair), which didn’t work- and neither did the two other attempts.
  • Democracy was restored in 1991- under harsh political pressure
  • Rene didn’t step down until 1993, when the multi-party system was enforced

Seychelles’ tourism was affected by the Persian Gulf War; afterwards the government has been trying to reduce their reliance on tourism (and failing) to reduce risks. Fishing has increased, and is now the main industry again.

Originally in 1971, plantations and tourism were largely opposing industries. Tourism was more profitable, so plantations declined. The government encouraged a lot of foreign investment to upgrade hotels and services, leading to there being many hotels and resorts, and a lot of real estate.

Tourism dependency is being reduced, the government is especially encouraging farming, fishing, small-scale manufacture and off-shore finance.

Economy generally

Seychelles has a major crack-down on piracy, as pirates cost 4% of the GDP annually- local fishing can be cost up to 46%. Seychelles has the largest incarceration per capita as a result.

The Seychelles have 14 airports, 7 of which are paved. They have the smallest population of any independent African State, this is clearly for their past tourism industry. The transport system is generally fairly good for an LIC.

Touristic appeal

Other than a socialist past and issues with piracy, the Seychelles are still quite appealing to tourists.

A lot of wildlife was eliminated upon human habitation, but this was a very small proportion compared to many similar places, such as Hawaii. The islands have still been left with many rare species. The Coco de Mer is essentially two fused coconuts, only found on 2 islands of more than 116 in total.

Much of the land is covered in national parks or world heritage sites, protecting the huge amounts of rare wildlife (most of which tourists are allowed to see). They have social gardens for  wildlife and quite a few botanical gardens.

The beaches have a very good reputation, making the scenery very appealing. The temperature is generally fairly warm, with temperature ranges on the main island generally between 24-30°C, with average national highs between 28-31°C, although it is humid. May to November have breezes, so this is generally the best time for tourism.

The local fish (around 42 coral islands and 67 raised coral islands, as well as some others) are unafraid of divers, although much of the coral has been bleached.

The island are interesting to geologists, as they are some of the hardest  and granitic islands in the world- 45 islands are granitic.

There are no significant oil or gas reserves, reducing future risks of pollution, meaning it will stay environmentally in tact for a while.

The culture is very diverse and interesting. They have large amounts of curries in the typical diet and large amounts of tropical fruit and fish. Shark chutney appears fairly commonly; they also have very diverse music from this. It is also fairly rare, as it is one of very few matriarchal nations. It is normally for mothers to be unwed, and fathers are legally obligated to support their children, but have full working rights, and their working is the norm.

The Seychelles had very strong advertising during 1971-76, bringing in a lot of tourists, but there are now significant environmental concerns.

Managing tourism

There is a limit on 150,000 tourists per year and 4,000 hotel beds on their 3 largest islands. They favour European tourists as they tend to pay the most on holiday.

Speargun and dynamite fishing are completely banned and the Seychelles are a world leader in eco-tourism.