Published on : Friday, May 24, 2019
Independent and socialist, Seychelles is striving for social reform and nationalized industries. Tourism, which is Seychelles’ major industry, threatens nationalist ideology and socialist ambitions. It has spawned an array of economic, social and cultural contradictions.
An archipelago of 92 islands, with 67,000 inhabitants, Seychelles is in the east of Nairobi and southwest of Sri Lanka over 400,000 square miles in the Indian Ocean. With beaches and natural beauty, the islands attract tourists year-round. Brochures depict Seychelles as “far removed from the march of civilization,” “a home of sea, birds, trees, peace, beauty, quiet and hospitality,” “an oasis of sun-drenched cays, lapped by the Indian Ocean.”
Tourism was first initiated by the British to help Seychelles meet its balance of payments. In 1969, a British Economic Aid Mission visited the Seychelles said that “the possibilities of tourism would enable Seychelles to become economically self-sufficient within ten to fifteen years.”
Before the construction of an international airport in Mahe in 1971, few adventurers who arrived by steamer stayed as honorary guests at colonial clubs or in one of Mahe’s small hotels. In 1966, 529 tourists visited the islands. By 1972, tourist numbers surged to 3,100. By the mid-seventies, visitors numbered 37,000, and went to 79,000in 1980.
Four-fifths of the tourists who visit Seychelles book their holidays with the help of foreign tour operators. Even more stay in foreign-owned hotels. Thus, the bulk of tourist revenues do not benefit the country. While job opportunities increased during the initial period of infrastructural growth for tourism, employment has now declined. The bulk of jobs now available go to women in the service sector.
Tourism in Seychelles is characterized by heavy private investment with ownership in the hands of foreigners and local elites.