Key partners in Seychelles have started to discuss the development of the island nation’s cultural tourism sector as an addition and alternative to the crystal ocean and white beaches that tourists flock to the island nation for.
A first meeting hosted by the Minister for Finance, Economic Planning and Trade, Naadir Hassan, held last week brought together representatives from the culture, tourism and private sector, mainly the Seychelles Music Association (Seymas) and Cooperatives des Artisans, a statement from the ministry said.
“The cultural tourism sector is one area where the government wants to really focus on, because it trickles down directly in the community, providing a livelihood for our people, and tourists can spend more, which means foreign exchange will stay in the country,” said Hassan.
A committee is expected to be set up in the coming weeks to agree on a plan of action. Hassan said it is important that the committee “discuss, agree, implement and enforce actions” to develop cultural tourism to its full potential and simplify the process.
“The government is creating the right environment to provide encouragement and exposure, but it will be up to the artists to take up the initiatives and opportunities which will be available to them,” added the minister.
“Diversification of local products offered by local artists will be our main focus when discussing how to develop cultural tourism because the aim is to maximize tourism receipts by providing maximum exposure of local products,” said the Principal Secretary for Tourism, Anne Lafortune.
The issue of cultural tourism has been very topical lately, with President Wavel Ramkalawan talking about it upon his return from a state visit from Qatar last month. Minister for Tourism Sylvestre Radegonde said the development of cultural tourism is for the benefit of the local population, who should be made to feel a part of the industry. The minister also made a call for cultural development at the district level in the mid to long-term, to encourage visitor spending.
When launching its strategic marketing objectives for Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – earlier this year the Seychelles Tourism Board said for 2021 it will invest more in digital marketing campaigns, going further to offer visitors an experience based on nature, culture, heritage and diversity which most travellers are now seeking, especially after having been confined due to lockdowns and restrictions on movement.
“The reason, you will see that a lot of our content, places a lot of emphasis on culture, the theme we have chosen is ‘Creole Rendezvous’. It is also in line with the strategy of the ministry, the government’s vision to really bring tourists into the community. We want persons in the communities to participate, for districts to participate. It is not just a kind of tourist that visits just for nice beaches and beautiful seas, but other things will influence the visitor to spend,” Sherin Francis, the chief executive of the board, had explained.
Those who attended the first meeting said that Seychellois should be included and involved in the sector. The chairperson of Seymas, George Payet, has urged the authorities to ensure that Seychellois musicians are hired by tourism establishments to provide entertainment.
“We need a framework which will provide musicians with the support and to enforce conditions in place, especially for GOP holders,” said Payet.
Jimmy Savy, from the National Arts Council (NAC), said that for a long time there has been talked about developing cultural tourism. “We need to empower the districts, and I can announce that NAC has already started a conversation with the Ministry of Local Government for collaborations.”
There have also been calls to help revive the dying handicrafts sector, where the younger generation is being asked to learn the art of making traditional crafts.