Carrying capacity studies on La Digue |27 July 2021
Moratorium on new hotel development on La Digue until 2023
A moratorium on the development of new hotels and guesthouses on La Digue will be officially enforced as of August 1, 2021 until 2023.
This was announced by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism, SylvestreRadegonde in a press meeting yesterday afternoon at the Botanical House.Results of the carrying capacity studies conducted on La Digue in 2019-2020 were also revealed during the meeting.
These results were presented to the media by Bernice Senaratne, director for policy, research, monitoring and evaluation within the tourism department; in the presence of principal secretary for tourism Sherin Francis; and Sinha Levkovic, director for product development.
The study was done by a consultant from Sustainable Travel International and was completed in February this year. The findings and recommendations were presented to the Cabinet of Ministers which has given its approval.
“La Digue remains one of the pearls that represent Seychelles and it remains special for us. La Digue is also marketed as one of our special treasures. When on La Digue, the visitors expect to see what we sold them. But unfortunately, La Digue has been transformed and I do not think that the island should be like what it is right now. In 2019-2020 a study was done on the carrying capacity for La Digue. According to the recommendations, it is clear that we have to address some issues as soon as possible if we want the island to be sustainable and remains the pearl of our Islands. Diguois cannot keep thinking that the only way to make money is through a guest house. They have to become innovative and invest in other activities linked with tourism,” said Minister Radegonde.
The moratorium on new development does not apply to those developers who have already applied for a permit of construction, but Minister Radegonde stressed that “no new application will be entertained.”
The objective of the study was to establish the current tourism development status with regards to a number of key indicators and also define the acceptable amount of change of certain parameters in view of achieving sustainable development on these small and vulnerable islands.
MsSenaratne explained that the study identifies the tourism carrying capacity priority issues, establishes desired conditions and thresholds and makes recommendations on the tourism development model.
Economy: The study identifies that La Digue is highly dependent on tourism. And this leaves locals vulnerable to any shocks that have significant negative consequences on the travel space. Visitor arrivals increased at 7% over the past six years and a decrease in visitor spending is highly attributed to the change in tourism profile.
“There has been a considerable growth in the number of rooms on La Digue and in the pipeline there are 123 more rooms expected. Currently there are 675 rooms available on La Digue compared to 191 rooms in 2000,” shared MsSenaratne.
Tourism activities:Investments have been mainly focused on accommodation development with little innovation in terms of visitor experience (F&B, museums, specialised activities, shops and boutiques).
There is a lack of spending opportunities for visitors as shown by the decreasing average spending per visitor and the low percentage of returning tourists.
Socio-economic conditions: There has been increased pressure on infrastructure risks, reducing the quality of life of residents by competing for the same resources needed to cater for tourism arrivals. This becomes apparent through electricity cuts and no central sewage system on La Digue.
Environmental systems: Environmental systems are strained, for example landfills and wastewater treatment plants are at capacity, recycling diversion rates are lowand there is a heavy reliance on fossil fuels.
Specific risks for La Digue include:A fragile ecosystem coupled with deficient utilities services and waste management systems make the situation most pressing. Praslin provides La Digueenergy via sea cable susceptible to damage, which often results in power cuts.
Productive infrastructure: Roads Transport Policy 2019 increased the quota of commercial vehicles from 45 to 60. In 2019, there were 50 motorised vehicles and 49 buggies, an increase of 2350% in the number of buggies from 2011 to 2019.
Ports - La Digue jetty is running at capacity but plans to upgrade it are already in place:an extension of the jetty by 150 metres and an extension of the passenger terminal building.
The report recommends to impose a moratorium on new hotel development until 2023. La Digue also has to rebalance hotel category supply and encourage 3 to 4-star boutique hotel experiences and develop a Hotel Development Strategic Plan.
“The report encourages the development of a contingency and recovery plan; understanding tourism impact on environmental systems; diversifyingtourism products and advancement for locals with enhanced capacity building and developing a monitoring and evaluation framework for tourism carrying capacity; developing a quality assurance programme; developing visitor use management and developing cruise tourism strategy. This will give us time to attend to the urgent issues,” noted MsSenaratne.
MinisterRadegonde stated that “we do have some pressing issues to deal with on La Digue and not everybody will be happy with these decisions. We have to change the way business is being conducted and make La Digue more attractive to tourists. The transport issue is a major concern and the governmentworked on it and soon it will be presented to the public. One of the solutions will be to regulate the use of motorised bicycle and club cars. For La Digue, there should be more hybrid vehicles to limit carbon emission.”
Minister Radegonde said businesses should develop on La Digue using the craftsmen of La Digue. Facilities should spread out and not being limited to La Passe and l’Union.
“We hope with a proper comprehensive plan with a multi-sectoral committee, in two years we will be able to address these issues. I am confident we will be able to address these issues,” concluded Minister Radegonde.