The review of the Beach Control Act and other related existing laws and regulations, the final report on the use of beaches and public places by Sustainability for Seychelles (S4S) in collaboration with the Citizens Engagement Platform Seychelles (Ceps) and sheds made of coconut leaves on beaches on La Digue were some of the topics on the agenda for the meeting.
Minister Dogley explained that this committee was created before the COVID-19 outbreak, but because of the pandemic, they have had to focus on other things rather than the major issues they face with managing and controlling some of the activities that are detrimental to the tourism industry but also the use of the beach in general.
“We would like to continue, in fact in various meetings I have been in on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue people have been asking for us to continue working on some of the issues that were affecting the tourism industry before COVID-19. They asked us to ensure that by the time the tourism industry restarts we have measures in place and be ready for us to be able to create a better tourism industry, and not have the same situation before we closed our borders to foreign visitors,” said Minister Dogley.
He further noted that we all know the beach is of paramount importance as it is the most important unique selling point of Seychelles.
“If you go to any of our promotion activities we do outside Seychelles, even the videos, the films, the stands we put up to attract tourists, the beach is always very pronounced in all the visual materials we showcase. The kind of beaches we put is to differentiate ourselves from Thailand, Mombasa, Africa but also the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, where you will see a lot of people because there is over tourism in these places, but also with all sorts of furniture, umbrellas. This gives the image that those places are not natural anymore.”
Minister Dogley added that during the last few years we have seen a proliferation of activities on the beach itself, these include selling all sorts of things on the beach illegally, putting up beach beds, playing loud music, partying late into the night and disturbing others who are trying to have a more relaxed time on the beach. These uncivilised behaviour impact on the enjoyment of other people who want to use the same area in the right way.
“So we would like to restart the process to get back to the work we were doing, that has been affecting the way people who enjoy that special place. In certain countries like Mauritius they have a beach authority that controls beach activities. Unfortunately, we do not have one so we have tried to bring all the different stakeholders and authorities that have a role to play around the table to get everyone to take their role seriously and address those issues impacting the enjoyment of the beach by visitors,” explained the minister.
Regarding the establishment of a policy for our beaches, Minister Dogley noted that the committee has established the different things that have a negative impact on people’s enjoyment of the beach. For example, noise issues, people playing sports on the beaches, people hawking goods on the beach, crimes, illegal activities, and a lack of facilities for people on the beach (e.g. lockers, showers).
“So what we want to see is a better management of the beach than today, and for us to get everyone to do their bit. That is what the first meeting discussed, how we can get everyone onboard to work together in a more collaborative way to respond to the different challenges we see on the beach,” he said.
The committee will also include the impact of COVID-19 on our tourism industry in its discussions and will try to put in place all measures like social distancing and hygiene.
Will these measures frustrate the locals?
Minister Dogley highlighted that as tourism minister it is normal that his primary concern is the tourists.
“But definitely, what is good for tourists is good for locals as well. Humans are humans. If someone is doing something that is affecting the enjoyment of other people, you are definitely infringing on their rights. I believe everyone is on the same page. For example, regarding noise issues, we have lots of complaints from guesthouses next to the beaches saying their guests cannot sleep at night. If tourists cannot sleep neither can locals so these things definitely affect everyone. We are not telling people they cannot enjoy the beach but we are asking them to do things in a more responsible manner,” said Minister Dogley.
The minister also announced that they have worked on the Beach Bed regulations and it is expected to be discussed in the National Assembly soon.
Following the decision to reopen our borders with commercial flights starting August 1, there is a whole list of measures the ministry is working on to ensure that as a country we are ready to receive tourists in a safe way.
“There is a lot of work to do between now and August 1 to ensure all measures are in place, including these issues around beaches. We have all the main agencies, including private sector, around the table here to discuss how to address this problem. The government does not see it necessary to create a beach authority during this period, but if all agencies play their roles and there is better coordination between all stakeholders we should be able to make a difference in terms of beach management,” concluded Minister Dogley.
Present at the meeting were representatives of the department of environment, department of tourism, Public Health Authority, Seychelles Licensing Authority, Seychelles Hotel and Tourism Association (SHTA), Enterprise Seychelles Agency (Esa), the police and Seychelles Maritime and Safety Administration (SMSA).