Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture, accompanied by Anne Lafortune, the island’s PS for Tourism, and the Head of the Product Section of the Seychelles Ministry of Tourism, Sinha Levkovic, are in Colombia for the 21st General Assembly of the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization). The Seychelles delegation are joining together with some 800 delegates from UNWTO Member States and private sector organizations. Tourism’s ability to foster inclusive development and social transformation is set to be the focus of this 21st Session of the UNWTO General Assembly meeting in Medellin, Colombia (September 12-17, 2015).
The UNWTO stated that this General Assembly is taking place at a most dynamic time for the tourism sector. Tourism has been a major contributor to the economic recovery in many parts of the world, generating foreign earnings, employment, and investment. In 2014, despite several challenges, international tourism reached new records with 1,133 million tourists traveling the world and contributing US$ 1.5 trillion in exports.
For Seychelles, tourism continues to be the pillar of the island’s economy, recording now (early September) a 19% increase in visitor arrival numbers over the year-to-date figures of 2014. “We are doing well in Seychelles, and too often we even fail to see how well we are doing when we analyze the happenings in the world at large. Our Tourism Board continues to work to see important increases in visitor arrival numbers. I have personally written to Sherin Naiken, the CEO of the Tourism Board, to congratulate her and her team only this week when the island’s Statistical Bureau released figures that we had reached a 19% increase in our arrival figures over last year,” said Minister Alain St.Ange in discussions in Colombia.
Seychelles has put in place a working public/private sector partnership approach for their tourism industry that remains the pillar of their economy. “But our private sector still face challenges in operating costs, and this year, this has been exasperated by the drop in the value of the euro. Even though the laws of the islands stipulate that all transactions must be in the islands’ currency, many of the bigger players in the local tourism scene were still contracting in euro, and this decision is today hurting,” said the Seychelles Minister. “Our tourism industry remains a true instrument for positive change for Seychelles, and my appeal for both the public and also the private sector of Seychelles is to remain united as we focus on the consolidation of the tourism industry we all so depend on,” said Minister of Tourism Alain St.Ange.
This year, the UNWTO General Assembly also coincides with a defining moment for the international community as it prepares to embrace the universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the post-2015 blueprint for sustainable development. Sinha Levkovic of the Seychelles is expected to report at the CAF Meeting of this General Assembly on the works of the UNWTO Committee on Tourism and Sustainability. A joint UNWTO/ICAO High-level Forum on Tourism and Air Transport for Development will also be taking place during they UNWTO General Assembly in Colombia. The forum will discuss the needed closer cooperation with aviation. The forum, with the participation of all delegates attending, will be moderated by the Secretary-General of UNWTO, Taleb Rifai, and the Secretary-General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Dr. Fang Liu, and will also count on the participation of Richard Quest, Anchor of CNN’s Quest Means Business.
The UNWTO General Assembly that is held every two years is UNWTO’s main statutory meeting and the most important international gathering of senior tourism officials and high-level representatives of the private sector.
Seychelles is a founding member of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP)