After the reforms announced in the Seychelles’ national budget, the business community fears for the country’s economy. They stress the need for more tourists and for additional foreign investments.
An American military force from Naval Ship USS 45, which docked in Seychelles waters on 29 December and left on 2 January, provided a feel good factor to local business owners. They felt that this influx of tourists for a five day period had a great effect on their businesses.
One business owner from Ireland, who has been working in local construction for over 20 years, and more recently in the food and beverage industry, confides: “I noticed a lot of American men coming to my bar for a drink. It brought some life to the premises and of course I sold more alcohol than I usually do”. He noted that “locals did not really go out for the New Year and that is worrying because we need to earn more revenue this year.”
He strongly believes that there is a need to attract more tourists to drive economic activity.
“We need a change in mindset – tourists are good for the country, even foreign workers, and we need more of them because it brings in revenue to businesses and boosts the economy,” he stresses.
Shopkeepers based in central Victoria, the capital of Mahe – Seychelles’ main island, also note that there were more tourists during year-end, more specifically Americans, who were buying local products and touring the town area.
One shopkeeper notes that he sold more bottles of Seybrew beer – a drink tourists seem to appreciate because it is locally made.
One of the most visible advantages of a higher level of economic activity within tourism is the jobs that tourism generates. This ranges from directly influenced positions like tour guides, hotel staff, coach services, and restaurants to employment in the support industries like retailing and food production.
Tourism allows money to be injected into a community in a variety of ways. The great benefit of this industry is that it’s extremely labour intensive, and many of the businesses that operate within it are small businesses and micro operators. This means that every dollar or euro coming into the industry quickly benefits business owners and their staff. The additional earnings directly boost local spending.
One restaurant and bar owner expressed interest in importing foreign products such as Bavarian beer and European snacks, provided the tourism industry picks up.
“If I know that more tourists are going to come to Seychelles this year – and I hope there are – then I have a reason to diversify my business and import these types of products which they will like,” he observed.
Bringing tourists into a community gives it new life, and creates opportunities for entrepreneurs to market new services and products, or facilities that would not be sustainable if the businesses relied mainly on the local population alone.
Tourists are all potential customers, and with the right business strategy, success would be forthcoming.
Some business leaders we met insist that, in addition, foreign investment is essential to help Seychelles tap its economic potential fully by providing capital to finance new industries and enhance existing industries. These investments are required, they say, to boost infrastructure, productivity, and employment opportunities.