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Saint Ange on Seychelles Tourism Report #9

I begin this report with a well-known quote from the great philosopher, Socrates: “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.”

Following a discussion last week on the economic status of our island Nation, Air Seychelles confirmed the discontinuation of its Dusseldorf flight and a reduction of flights on its Paris run. This follows the suspension of its Durban route from South Africa. Any loss of flights to a tourism destination is concerning, and more so when it touches key tourism source markets. Seychelles needs more than ever before to work in total unity to ensure that other airlines do not follow suit.

The remarkable success of the Seychelles fragile tourism industry in recent years must not be taken for granted. Though we as Seychellois believe that we have the most stunning beaches and array of islands on the planet, every other similar touristic destination shares the same belief. This means that we are fishing from the same pond, and solely relying on our country’s beauty to fill up hotel beds year after year is an unrealistic expectation.

Visibility is integral and it alone remains the key to success. Visibility keeps tourism destinations relevant.

Last week, I was privileged to be able to represent Saint Ange Constultancy in the Berau Region of Indonesia. I want to thank Mr. Nico Barito and his team for their kind hospitality, assistance and, above all, friendship, which made this memorable trip possible. I visited some of the regions of this province and appreciated the wonders that each island has to offer. I was left in awe of the country’s unique culture, nature and wildlife, in all their diversity and splendor.

In Indonesia, more particularly in Kutai Kartanegara, I saw the drive to put culture at the center of their development, whilst providing entertainment with a difference to the Indonesians. Their International Folk Art Festival of Tengarong City provides a platform for countries of the world to showcase their music and dance alongside Indonesians. It was a nostalgic reminder of what the Carnaval International de Victoria of Seychelles was also achieving for our country as it provided much needed entertainment for the Seychellois who descended in droves for the annual event.

I have every faith that with the youth of today, the future of Seychelles will be very bright indeed. I would like to commend the ongoing efforts of youth groups, like SYAH, which are working very hard to steer our country in the right direction.

Until next time, I bid you Bon Voyage.

Alain St.Ange
alain@saintange.com.au

Saint Ange Consultancywww.alainstange.net

Below is an excerpt from the St. Ange Newsletter – Issue 9:

Coral & Tourism

Despite occupying less than 0.1% of the earth’s surface, coral is main reason why travelers choose to visit tropical destinations. Coral is big business.

Saint Ange on Seychelles Tourism Report #9 St Ange Coral Reef

Photo demonstrating the rich diversity of coral and fish in Bonaire. Photo credit: Eddy Tuchman, travel writer.

In a recent publication by Spadling et al. (2017), it was revealed through an innovative combination of data-driven academic research and crowd-sourced data that the world’s coral reefs contribute to 70 million trips per annum, showing that coral reefs are a powerful driving force for tourism. The study also revealed that coral reefs represent an astonishing $36 billion a year in economic value to the world. Of that $36 billion, $19 billion represents actual “on-reef” tourism like diving, snorkeling, glass-bottom boating and wildlife watching. The other $16 billion comes from spillover effects of coral reefs; including world class seafood, beautiful views of white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, charter fishing, bareboat sailing, cruise shipping, helicopter and seaplane rides, water sports, whale watching, etc.

Unfortunately, there is also a grim side to increased tourism activities. Breakage of coral colonies and tissue damage from direct contact such as walking, touching, kicking, standing, or gear contact is a major issue. Boat anchors can cause breakage or overturning of coral colonies and tissue damage. Moreover, there may also be changes in marine life behavior from feeding or harassment by humans.

Tour operators, hotel owners and government have a responsibility over the protection of coral reefs. Proper education to visiting tourists and locals are essential for proper management. One emerging resolution that is proving to be effective is the modeling of the economic contributions of coral reefs. An example of this working is in Bonaire, a small Caribbean island. In Bonaire, it was demonstrated that coral reefs generate approximately $23 million from its related activities, and in contrast it would take a mere $1 million to establish strict protection. This was an easy sell to the local policy makers, who have established strict laws governing coral reef protection in Bonaire (Talbot & Wilkinson, 2001).

Saint Ange on Seychelles Tourism Report #9 St Ange Coral Algal

Coral dominated system (top) and Algal dominated system.

Human impacts are not the only cause of reef devastation. In 1998, Seychelles underwent a major El. Nino event which had caused the destruction of over 90% of the live coral cover. When major disasters such as this occur, it gives rise to unwanted algal growth. The photographs depicted below were taken during my field research. They demonstrate the contrast between a coral dominated system and an algal dominated system.

Herbivorous fish species such as parrotfish, surgeonfish and rabbitfish help promote coral recovery by grazing on the unwanted algae. However, these fish species are also a major delicacy in the Seychelles, forming over 60% of the total artisanal catch. Moreover, fishing of these fish species is not regulated in the country, making them susceptible to over-fishing.

Following the 1998 bleaching event, the coral in Seychelles had shown some recovery, but suffered another El. Nino event in 2016, taking things back to square one. Natural disasters are becoming ever more frequent with climate change on the rise. Tropical destinations such as Seychelles will have to act quickly to safeguard their coral reefs.

Science needs to be incorporated more efficiently into governmental policy, as has been done in Bonaire.

Saint Ange on Seychelles Tourism Report #9 St Ange Rabbitfish catch

Rabbitfish catch being prepared for salting in Seychelles. Photo credit: Facebook.

I have dedicated my PhD research to investigating the role that herbivorous fish species play in promoting coral reef resilience around the Seychelles islands. So far I have discovered that rabbitfish are playing a key role in regulating algal growth. I have also found that the Marine Parks around the Inner Seychelles Islands are not working effectively to promote herbivorous fish numbers. It is plausible that the lack of enforcement around the Inner Islands are making the marine parks an attractive fishing spot for poachers.

It is hoped that my research, along with that of other scientists, will help Seychelles introduce regulatory procedures to manage crucial fisheries such as that of herbivorous fish.

“It’s clear that the tourism industry depends on coral reefs. But now, more than ever, coral reefs are depending on the tourism industry”- Dr. Robert Brumbaugh, Director of Ocean Planning & Protection, The Nature Conservancy.

Article contributed by Ameer Ebrahim, Environmental Consultant.