Advancing Sustainable Tourism and Conservation in Seychelles' Vallée de Mai" World Heritage Site amidst Adversity"

Friday, 29 March 2024
access_time 2 min read
© Cheyenne Chang-Yunn/SIF

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global tourism industry faced significant setbacks, particularly affecting economies heavily reliant on tourism, like Seychelles. The pandemic showed the vulnerability of tourism, leading to a drastic decline of over 70% in foreign visitors to Seychelles in 2020. This downturn highlighted the nation's dependence on tourism revenue to sustain its population and facilitate international imports, emphasizing the need to strengthen its tourism infrastructure.

Despite protecting 50% of its terrestrial expanse and 30% of its marine territories, Seychelles continues to face threats to its biodiversity and natural heritage. Climate change, invasive species, forest fires, biodiversity loss from developmental projects, as well as local poaching and illegal fishing activities, demand heightened attention and mitigation efforts.

Supported by the Netherlands Funds in Trust (NFIT) ,  in collaboration with the World Heritage Centre and UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, and implemented by the Seychelles Island Foundation (SIF), a transformative initiative unfolded to enhance sustainable tourism management and conservation within the “Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve” World Heritage Site. This initiative, which was implemented in 2022-2023, involved robust statistical visitor management, optimization of sales performance, and the development of scientific monitoring and visitor engagement applications. A web-based database was developed, providing integrated analysis of visitor metrics and biodiversity surveillance. To improve data acquisition and enrich visitor experiences within the site, a visitor science application was developed for self-guided tours and opportunistic species sighting data collection. This technological innovation not only enhanced visitor engagement but also facilitated the preservation of invaluable ecological data.

Tourists visiting the Vallée de Mai’s World Heritage Site use the newly installed Point of Sales system ©Christina Quanz/Seychelles Islands Foundation

The culmination of the project coincided with the 40th-anniversary celebration of Vallée de Mai as a UNESCO World Heritage site. During the celebratory ceremony held on 8 February 2024, the official launch of the Vallée de Mai visitor science app took place. The highlight of the launch was a guided tour with the President of the Republic of Seychelles and SIF Patron, Hon. Wavel Ramkalawan, SIF’s board members, and selected esteemed guests. The tour highlighted the App's main features, including visitor information and in-depth content on endemic species found on the site, accompanied by an English audio guide. Additionally, participants were allowed to record sightings, demonstrating how the app enables visitors to contribute to the site’s conservation and monitoring efforts of all endemic species.

The President and First Lady of Seychelles on a VIP guided tour of the Vallée de Mai World Heritage Site, using the visitor science App © Mr. Romano Laurence/Seychelles Islands Foundation

The Seychelles Island Foundation also conducted capacity-building trainings with staff on operating the visitor science app. Furthermore, plans are underway to develop a French version of the app’s audio guide and visitor user guides explaining how to use the App.

Reflecting on the project's impact, Beguita Bellard, a member of the Praslin Sales team, expressed its significance, stating, "I found the retail management training to be incredibly valuable. The training provided us with practical strategies to enhance our sales techniques and better connect with our customers."

In the annals of Seychelles' conservation and sustainable tourism narrative, this endeavour stands as a testament to resilience and ingenuity, safeguarding a cherished haven for generations to come.

Friday, 29 March 2024
access_time 2 min read
Keywords 1
States Parties 1
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Africa
World Heritage Properties 1