Seychelles planning to lift moratorium on increasing tourism accomodation on La Digue

Tourism |Author: Rita Joubert-Lawen Edited by: Betymie Bonnelame | March 4, 2024, Monday @ 15:38| 5061 views

The moratorium on construction of new tourism accommodation and change of use on La Digue came into force on August 1, 2021. (Rebai/Flickr) Photo licence: CC BY 2.0

(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles' tourism authorities are looking into the possibility of lifting the existing moratorium on building new tourism establishments on La Digue Island, the third most populated of the island nation, said a top tourism official.

Following a recent meeting with the island's inhabitants, the principal secretary for tourism, Sherin Francis, said that the authorities were studying various possibilities for continuing development on the island in a sustainable manner.

The moratorium on construction of new tourism accommodation and change of use on La Digue came into force on August 1, 2021, as part of recommendations following a carrying capacity study carried out for La Digue from 2019 to 2021.

The moratorium was extended to December 2023 to allow the Department of Tourism the necessary time to make informed decisions on the way forward based on the recommendations of the Accommodation Establishment Strategic Development Plan.

"We have not taken any decisions yet, we have just held a validation meeting for the tourism development plan," Francis said, explaining the recent meeting held with La Digue residents.

The proposals brought to the islanders are based on a recent study the department held in a bid to find ways to increase rooms on the island sustainably.

The study suggested that if tourism arrivals in Seychelles grow by five percent annually, then the number of rooms should also be increased by no more than five percent.

Most tourism accommodations on La Digue are currently self-catering establishments.

"When we look at the balance of rooms, the study has suggested that should we have additional rooms, they should focus on hotels. They don't have to be big hotels, but the advantage of hotels is that they come with ancillary facilities which will encourage visitors to spend more when they are on the island," she said.

Traditionally, hotels include services such as restaurants and spas that other visitors can also use and can also serve as an attraction.

The number of rooms allowed as part of the development is also expected to grow from five to an establishment to up to 24.

"When we look at the very small hotel owners, we have realised from the returns they submit at the Seychelles Revenue Commission, that they are barely breaking even," she said.

However, Francis said that the authorities plan to ensure that the number of rooms allowed is not larger than the allowed growth rate.

"Taking into account the challenges La Digue faces in terms of electricity, water, and sewerage management, it is clear that the island does not have the capacity to cater for added tourism growth," she said.

It is for this reason the tourism department is asserting that all new projects be sustainable tourism certified so that it removes some of the pressure of existing infrastructures.

"This means the establishments must score points in the way they manage their waste, their water and electricity among others," she added.

Results from the carrying study that came out in 2021 identified pressures as deficient utility services, lack of proper waste management system, and the landfill operating at capacity.

As part of recommendations brought forward after a study was carried out for the construction of new tourism accommodations and applications for change of use.

"We cannot leave the moratorium as it is as we are limiting the economic growth of the island, we just have to lift it in a sustainable manner," said Francis, ast he people of La Digue have acknowledged that "things should be done differently".

Now that the meeting has been held and the tourism department is working on the necessary documents to send to the government for approval, "we believe that we will be able to lift the moratorium sometime in April and announce the new measures," concluded Francis. 

Tags: Accommodation Establishment Strategic Development Plan, carrying capacity study