In a move to recognise the need for sustainable tourism, a complete halt on new tourism accommodation development projects will come into force as of August 1, 2021, until 2023 as immediate action is required for the protection of La Digue, an island in the Seychelles, from over-development and to preserve its way of life.

Comparisons with many islands in Thailand, which have shown signs of environmental degradation pre-Covid, could be made with this Seychelles example.

The Department of Tourism made the announcement on Monday, July 26, in a meeting held by senior officials of the Department with stakeholders on La Digue to present the findings of a Carrying Capacity Study for La Digue conducted in 2019-21.

The study, conducted by independent consultancy firm, Sustainable Travel International, was mandated to establish the current development status of the island as well as provide recommendations to guide government in developing policies to manage tourism growth and achieve sustainable tourism development on the small island.

La Digue, one of the most picturesque of the Seychelles Islands with its laid-back lifestyle, outstanding granite outcrops and one of the most photographed beaches in the world, welcomed in 2019, 17,868 overnight visitors in some 658 accommodation establishments available on the island.

While this exercise is being undertaken, with effect from August 1, there will be a complete halt on all tourism accommodation development projects on the island until 2023 as immediate action is required for the protection of the island or until visitor’s arrivals and occupancy, rates recover.

This moratorium takes place in the context of the further development of the necessary productive infrastructure such as water, electricity and sewage that would cater for the growth in the industry.

The need to formulate a recovery plan to determine the route to recovery taking into consideration the impact of tourism on the island and nation’s economy, and on businesses and residents alike, is critical, the study highlighted.

Key recommendations of the 2019-2020 Carrying Capacity Study for La Digue includes:

1. The diversification of the tourism product on La Digue to ensure that there are more services and activities to increase visitor engagement and spend and encourage repeat visitors. This could be in terms of food and beverage, cultural and artisanal products as well as niche products, Mrs. Senaratne said.

2. Determining the exact impact of tourism on existing productive infrastructure and the need for La Digue to adopt more sustainable and green solutions.

3. A visitor management plan for key areas and assets on La Digue. This is especially during the cruise ship season where there is an influx of visitors on the islands.

4. The development of a detailed carrying capacity framework involving all stakeholders is critical, the study concluded. This framework should be integrated into existing monitoring efforts, updated on a regular basis, define specific actions to address issues that arise, and be reported to key stakeholders.