November 23rd and 24th 2017, at UniSey campus Anse Royale, Mahe
The Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Foundation (SSTF) in cooperation with the University of Seychelles (Department of Tourism and Cultural Heritage) and their partners the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group (TAPAS group), the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) and the Paris Tourism Sorbonne Institute of Research and Higher Education in Tourism (IREST) proudly hosted the Conference on Sustainable Tourism in Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
The conference took place on Thursday November 23rd and Friday November 24th, 2017 at UniSey campus Anse Royale, Mahe, Seychelles, and was open to tourism professionals from public and private sector, NGOs involved in tourism, academics and students. Besides tourism stakeholders from Seychelles, the conference convened 30 international delegates from 22 countries, including Antigua, Aruba, Botswana, Comoros, Egypt, France, Germany, Guam, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Micronesia, New Zealand, Reunion, Sao-Tomé and Principe, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, UAE, USA and Vanuatu. The opening ceremony was attended by the Vice-President of the Republic of Seychelles Mr. Vincent Meriton and the Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine Mr. Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, who, in his opening speech, emphasized the goal of every tourism business in Seychelles committing to operate sustainably.
In his keynote, Randy Durband, the CEO of the GSTC and key speaker of the event, provided the participants with a global view of sustainable tourism, highlighting the fact that the private sector is moving too slowly, and measurement is on the rise globally. Moving beyond merely counting the number of arrivals, he urged destinations to look into average length of stay and average spend per visitor. While providing an overview of CO2 emissions in tourism, with accommodations accounting for 21% of overall tourism CO2 emissions, Randy emphasized the need to make the experience on the ground as clean as possible. Dr Anna Spenceley, GSTC Board Member and Chair of the IUCN WCPA TAPAS Group, gave a keynote on sustainable tourism in protected areas. She provided information on the activities of the TAPAS Group, and also provided examples of current debates and work relating to the 5 protected area conference themes. Dr Madina Regnault’s keynote emphasized the importance of cultural and social elements of sustainable tourism in SIDS.
The two-day conference included seven sessions on (1) the evaluation of financial and economic benefits of tourism in protected areas, (2) destination management and the application of standards and certification tools for protected areas, (3) impacts on biodiversity of protected area tourism, (4) tourism concessions and partnerships, (5) community-benefits and socio-economic linkages from protected area tourism, (6) sensitization and awareness: tools and best practices to involve local populations and tourists in sustainable tourism, as well as (7) employment and training in sustainable tourism: tools to reduce poverty in SIDS.
National and international delegates presented their research findings, project results and ideas and discussed them during plenary debates and round tables. These presentations had been selected by the Conference Scientific Committee comprising TAPAS Group members and representatives of the Paris Sorbonne, based on submissions of abstracts from around the world. The conference organizers were very satisfied with the high quality of presentations, the professionalism and expertise with which participants engaged.
The conference was followed by a gala dinner themed “Sustainable Tourism in Seychelles”, which took place at AVANI Seychelles Barbarons Resort – a hotel that is in the process of obtaining Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label (SSTL) certification. International delegates had the opportunity to engage with a wider gathering of Seychellois private sector representatives and partners during a Creole evening, including speeches from Ms Daniella Payet, the founder of the SSTF, and Randy Durband.
Over the weekend, international delegates enjoyed a series of field visits introducing them to some of the highlights of Seychelles in terms of conservation and ecotourism. After sailing with a catamaran from Mahe to Cousin, participants enjoyed a private guided tour of the Cousin Island Special Reserve by Nature Seychelles wardens, followed by an authentic lunch at Villa de Mer and a guided visit to the UNESCO site Vallée de Mai. The next day, the group took the boat to Cerf island in the St Anne Marine Park, where the Cerf Island Conservation Programme (CICP) took them on a snorkel tour around the reef and a hike.
The organizers wish to thank all their partners, sponsors and all participants, presenters and facilitators for making this event a very special event for Seychelles in our journey towards GSTC destination certification, facilitating many meaningful and fruitful encounters and new partnerships!
The conference organizers will circulate a short conference report and all presentations are available at the IUCN TAPAS group slideshare account at: https://www.slideshare.net/TAPASGroup