SEYCHELLES NATIONAL ECONOMICS COUNCIL TARGETS TOURISM FOR GROWTH
When President James Michel chaired the countrys National Economics Council, in short NEC, earlier in the week the meeting had to look at a revised growth forecast for the Seychelles of 2.8 percent, down from the initially expected 4 percent. Global rises in the cost of fuel, combined with inflationary pressures, caused this lower than hoped for new estimate but the discussion reportedly swiftly focused on tourism, which continues to show a remarkable growth for the first almost four months of 2012.
The classic core markets from Europe showed in part a significant reduction in arrivals but the hard work of the Seychelles Tourism Board and the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association is now paying off. A fresh approach to new and emerging markets saw unprecedented doubling of arrival numbers, for instance from China where already last year numbers literally doubled and are again up in 2012 for the first few months by 95 percent. Other markets, like from the Middle East, also show an increase of over 40 percent year by year, prompting the NEC to task STB and SHTA to prepare a strategy paper of the way forward for the rest of the year, to have tourism once more locomotive the economy forward. Diversification and new products were mentioned as the key for future success and Air Seychelles, now in a phase of re-orientation and looking at a new range of destinations under the auspices of partner airlines Etihad, was also called upon to play their part.
Other significant issues reportedly discussed were the governments plans to introduce VAT from mid 2012, with calls for review of both modalities and time frame to allow for a smoother implementation of the new tax system and to avoid any increase in cost for in particular the tourism industry.
A regular source also mentioned that reclamation of land through artificial peninsulas or islands connected with Mahe by bridges would also be necessary to cater for the increased requirements for office space and commercial premises while pointing out that this might take place under public private partnership in order to shift much of the financial requirements to private investors while government would provide zoned areas and the required permits to go ahead with such new projects, while also supporting loan finance through commercial banks and development banking institutions.
In an interesting turn of events was a principal decision also taken to facilitate the upstart of new airlines based on the Seychelles, subject to meeting regulatory and safety requirements, to improve connectivity between the islands at affordable tariffs, an apparent reference to the huge increase on domestic fares for Air Seychelles flights between Mahe and Praslin, where locals now have to pay the same fares as tourist visitors. Watch this space for regular news updates from the Creole Island paradise of the Seychelles.