Good Morning, and a very warm welcome to the Seychelles
We are delighted to be able to host this first meeting of the Ministerial Working Group on the Tourism Sector Development Strategy for Africa for the AU Agenda 2063 with the theme: TOURISM: A Transformative Force for Africa.
The Tourism Industry is no doubt a powerful socio-economic asset of our continent, that has yet to be fully exploited for the benefit of our peoples. It is however a major sector of the economy for many of our countries, including Seychelles. The successful countries in Tourism are thriving due to a variety of factors, namely beautiful beaches and their proximity to Europe, rich history of Ancient Egypt. South Africa and Kenya benefit from wild safari expeditions, attracting tourists to see the wildlife of Africa.
In 2013, more visitors/tourists visited Africa and this trend has been increasing each year, boosting Economic Growth and making the continent competitive with other Regions. We are all convinced that Africa has the potential with its cultural and natural resources to out pace other Regions in attracting more of the valuable tourism dollars.
We are all agreed that entrepreneurs need transparency, roads, ports, airports and electricity to help them build and expand tourist destinations.
We are all agreed that our African Countries can compete with other tourist-rich regions of the world but we need to effectively plan for and integrate tourism into our economies.
Our task today at this Expert’s session is to discuss and agree the best way forward for the elaboration of a long term policy and strategic framework for the continued development of the Tourism sector in the Continent in the context of the AU Agenda 2023.
Seychelles is a small island nation with 90,000 people and an annual tourism visitor arrivals exceeding 200,000. In other words we receive 3x more visitors than our local population. As such tourism is the mainstay of our economy and represents over 27% of our GDP, employs between 18 – 20% of our total workforce and contributes over $350 million dollars to our economy annually. Between 60 – 65% of the hotels in Seychelles are owned by Seychellois. These statistics ladies and gentlemen clearly shows that with a sound Tourism policy an island blessed with only its natural beauty can attract credible investors, and make Tourism the pillar of its economy.
However we also need to have and maintain certain key ingredients which are absolutely essential to the success of Tourism worldwide. From my experience there are 4 main ingredients:-
First, we need to have a stable political platform with peace and security present at all times. This is needed to attract both the investor and the visitor.
Second, we need to have a government that is willing to become the facilitator and allow the private sector to take the lead in this industry. A sound Tourism policy with concessions (equal and transparent) to all investors, foreign or local are needed to either kick start the industry or allow for its continued growth over time.
Thirdly, connectivity or in our case air access is essential. A liberal air transport policy is certainly preferred and the Yamoussoukro Declaration is a good starting point. However our experience has shown that it is both a need and a requirement for a country to have its national airline involved in this industry. This is especially true when your economy depends so much on Tourism.
The fourth ingredient has to be our Human Resource which in fact may be the most important. A trained, professional tourism workforce is key especially as new tourism destinations are added to the inventory annually giving more competition to existing established ones.
Of course we have a number of other important considerations that also play a part in a successful Tourism industry. This Expert’s meeting should devote the required time for review and discussion of all the critical success factors impacting our Tourism Industry.
The Seychelles delegation is committed to play an active role in shaping the recommendations for the consideration of our Ministers at tomorrow’s session.
With these few opening remarks, I declare this experts session open and thank you for your kind attention.