Seychelles’ tourism public sector engages in another round of consulations

SEYCHELLES’ PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP GETS BOOST THROUGH ADDED CONSULTATIONS

(Posted 01st July 2017)

Government officials met with stakeholders from the private sector in the third Multi Sectoral meeting for 2017 to discuss and propose solutions to challenges affecting the tourism industry.

The meeting held on Friday 23rd June at the Ex-National Assembly Hall, National house, was chaired by the Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine Mr. Maurice Loustau Lalanne.

A presentation on proposed changes in entrance fees for visitors to access the national parks and marine parks, mooring concerns on Praslin, stray dogs and tax on hybrid and electric cars were the main items on the agenda.

The Chief Executive of the SNPA, Flavien Joubert outlined the authority’s intention to strengthen tourism in the National Parks and financial needs required to achieve its objectives. Through a PowerPoint presentation made by Andrew Rylance, a Technical Advisor contracted through the GOS-UNDP-GEF protected area finance project, those present learnt that SNPA’s financial needs currently double its budget allocation.

Proposed strategies to increase revenue include increasing entrance fees for non-residents to the national parks and the payment of a one-time fee for tourists staying at hotels bordering marine protected areas. Details were also given on proposals to ensure the efficient collection of revenue that would be used to invest in conservation management and to improve tourism products.

Several points of concern were raised by the stakeholders including the need to improve the product value and safety along the trails and terrestrial parks. On the need to increase revenue, the trade proposed the setting up of kiosks to sell locally made products as well as for the one-time fee to be extended beyond the hotels bordering the marine protected parks.

Minister Loustau Lalanne who saluted the efforts of the SNPA highlighted that there should be more consultations with immediate stakeholders that would be affected, before a final decision can be taken on the proposals.

Aside of Minister Loustau Lalanne, the Minister of Environment, Energy & Climate Change Mr. Didier Dogley, Minister for Employment, Entrepreneurship Development and Business Innovation Mr. Wallace Cosgrow and the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Mr. Michael Benstrong were also present at the multi sectoral meeting. Representatives of the private sector who attended include representatives of the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, the Seychelles Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Praslin Business Association among others. Chief Executives and officials of various government organizations concerned were also present.

The other three items on the agenda were brought forward by the newly created Praslin Business Association, chaired by Mr Christopher Gill.

On the issue of stray dogs, which is in fact affecting all three main inhabited islands, Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, the stakeholders were given details on a new draft bill that seeks to amend the Dog Control Act. Once it enters into force – on January 1st 2018 – the provisions of the new act should help resolve the issue of stray dogs.

Currently in the white paper stage, members of the public are being invited to give their views on the new bill through a series of meetings,which will start in July. The new act makes provision to have dog shelters on the three main islands to house stray dogs until their owners can be located, or they can be re-homed. Ultimately, dogs that cannot be found a home after a set time period will be put to sleep.

On the issue of moorings it was felt that there should be more designated moorings on Praslin. It was pointed out that this would help generate revenue as mooring spaces can be rented to yachts and this would also help to protect the reefs and limit accidents.

Minister Loustau Lalanne remarked that there are plans to increase the number of mooring buoys on both Mahé and Praslin. Some 45 new mooring buoys are expected to be installed alongside the existing 78 at several marine parks.

On the issue of tax on hybrid, the stakeholders were informed that revision in tax rates announced by the Ministry of finance makes provision for the new tax rates to be applied based on the engine capacity of the hybrid vehicles, while 100 percent plug-in electric cars are not subject to taxation.

Statistics of crimes for the period of January to March 2017 was also presented. It was noted that an increase in crimes and other illegal activities had been recorded in the vicinity of Port-Launay and Baie Ternay during that period. Additionally, statistics for May show an increase in illegal activities at the Beau-Vallon beach.

The participants of the meeting were also updated on progress made to address some of the issues discussed at the previous meeting.

Meanwhile were the Seychelles the chosen venue for the shooting of a new UK television series.

A UK-based production house — Baby Cow Productions — has identified some of the islands’ uncrowded and idyllic beaches as the perfect setting for latest edition of its TV series — High and Dry. Rich in wild nature, the beaches’ backdrop, will provide the perfect location for their plot — a plane crash survival on a deserted island — to unfold.

The Seychelles Tourism Board is fully supporting the production with the help of other relevant authorities, considering this will be a huge plus for the country, especially for the tourism industry.

Announcing the new project, the Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board, Mrs Sherin Francis, revealed that up to now Baby Cow had been choosing locations in Asia for such productions and that the Philippines was originally the preferred location for the shooting that will now be done in Seychelles.

“Thanks to the good relations we have with the production company and a few others in the UK we managed to convince them to choose Seychelles for once and see how it goes and we are happy that they finally agreed to film the series in the Seychelles,” said Mrs Francis.

The filming is expected to last four weeks from July 9 to August 4, 2017. The crew will be shooting scenes at some of the well-known beaches on the Seychelles main island, Mahé, namely Anse-Major, Anse du Riz, and the Barbarons beach.

Anse Major, which borders the Morne Seychellois reserve in the northwest of Mahé is accessible by boat or an intense hike offering gorgeous coastal views is popular among both the locals and tourists. This is also where key scenes will be filmed, although most of the filming will be done during the weekdays.

As the scenario involves a plane crash on a deserted island, Mrs Francis is calling on the corporation of all stakeholders namely the general public, boat owners and other tourism operators during the filming period.

“We are aware that a lot of the beaches especially Anse Major are habitually visited by our locals and visitors, reason why filming will take place on one beach at a time. We cannot restrict access to the beaches but we are simply asking for the cooperation of the general public and tour operators bringing clients to these beaches. For example, at Anse Major you have two stretch of beaches and only one of them will be used for the production at any given time so that the other one can be available to visitors,” said Mrs Francis.

British comedian Marc Wootton will be the lead actor in the series. The total budget for the filming of the series in Seychelles is around £1.7 million. Baby Cow Productions is financing the entire cost of the production. The Seychelles Tourism Board has assisted mainly in getting them the necessary authorizations. Several local companies including small contractors, boat companies and even a local production house are expected to benefit through the production.

Once the series starts airing on Channel 4 in the UK, although it won’t be directly mentioning Seychelles, the fact that the beautiful beaches, clear turquoise waters and lush tropical vegetation will be featured this will help to push Seychelles into the UK limelight, which is a market that has been seeing remarkable increase in visitor arrivals to Seychelles over the last two years.

“With our current budget it would have been impossible to acquire such immense publicity for the Seychelles,” said Mrs Francis, adding that STB is also bringing a PR company onboard to feature a “Behind the Scenes” documentary about the filming. It is customary for viewers of such TV series to be given the chance to follow what went on behind the making of the production, which is an aspect that one rarely gets to see. This also helps to create a forum for viewers to engage and discuss the series and also the location.

To note that Baby Cow productions established in 1999, is an award winning production house in the UK with a reputation for producing some much loved comedy series. Aside of High and Dry some of its other productions include Hunderby, Hebburn, The Trip, Gavin & Stacey to name but a few.

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