T.S. Eliot Once said, “The journey, Not the destination matters...”. a statement I’ve heard, many times in my life, yet I never understood what it meant due to my affliction of being a goal oriented person, always wanting to achieve my goals the moment I embarked upon them. However, during this internship I have learnt, it’s really not always the destination or goal that gives us joy, as much as it is the journey. It is the experience, the learning and being there that enriches ourselves. It is waking up, going to work every day, walking until my feet get sore, struggling, succeeding and even failing that made it so beautiful for me.
So, what did I learn during my journey?
I have to admit that I joined the Blue economy internship on a whim without much thought and a bit of skepticism of what I would learn. For what it’s worth I am glad I did! I’ve had the opportunity to meet some outstanding people during these two weeks, the passion for what they do, whether it was from SYAH, SSTF or the various people I interviewed, I can say that I am blessed to have shared this moments with them. Sustainable tourism has always been a passion for me as I mentioned in my first blog post and the opportunity afforded by SSTF has given me an insight into how it is being implemented and practiced in Seychelles. Many initiatives have been undertaken from government to the private sector and by individuals themselves. Places such Anse Forbans Chalets and Constance Ephelia Resort working to protect the wetlands or Hilton working on rehabilitating corals through a nursery. The ministry of tourism introducing the SSTL (Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label ) certificate which recently was recognized by GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council) or the small guesthouse operators recycling waste and giving to the community it is the small steps that will make Seychelles the best example for sustainable tourism practices.
However, though there is much to celebrate we still many hurdles infront of us. Despite having a the SSTL certification in place on 17 out of the 500 plus tourism businesses have been certified! What I found was that this certificate was not being communicated properly, as some were not even aware of it. Many interviewees found no benefits of being part of this label as there is no incentive and lack of monitoring, as with all things in Seychelles it fizzles out quickly. More needs to be done to promote this label such as in collaboration through SIB (Seychelles Investment Board) any new projects must meet the requirements this will ensure that businesses are already certified and sustainable to begin with as these are quite costly. In addition, incentives need to be provided to join the certification process at the moment it is just voluntary.
Another major challenge was the disposal of rubbish this is a nationwide issue however this has major repercussions on the tourism industry. Tourists come for our beautiful beaches and scenery however when they get here the amount of rubbish one finds on beaches or by roads is staggering. The ban on plastic may have come too late for our nation! Many places segregate their waste, however they all end up on the landfill regardless, all that work for nothing. In addition, transport cost of the waste is high negating the use of recycling. I would recommend setting up partnerships between business to collect their waste this reduces individual cost if all pitch in. Furthermore, companies that are recycling, need to be promoted more as even myself was unaware of these companies which even recycle car batteries. There is big money in waste particular E-waste, if those drug addicts who pick up bottles see the money in waste why can’t we? Import of goods that are not up to standard many interviewees voiced this concerned as do I. Products entering the country need to be eco-certified and energy efficient rather we see all kind of goods that do not meet standards. These usually burnout within months further adding to waste problem.
Lack of knowledge, sharing of ideas means that many are not able to undertake certain projects, rather bringing together various stakeholders through collaboration can help to breed new innovations and solutions. Training needs to be implemented at various levels but particularly within schools to develop this culture so when entering the work place will facilitate implementation of sustainable practices or even reproduced at home. This can help to reduce costs as we are all working together to make our industry better. Furthermore, this will help to reduce our need to foreign workers, with locals being more active in the tourism industry, this is crucial particularly for La Digue where most of the workforce are expatriates. Many of the young residents have left the island for greener pastures on Mahe, it is essential to ensure that we create incentives for them to return and provide investments on the island which is suffering the cost of development in the country.
As I had mentioned we have many challenges ahead of us however it is through collaboration and synergy that we can overcome these challenges. Organisations like SSTF (Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Foundation) who are taking the charge in bringing Seychelles towards a sustainable future that gives me hope for the future as well as the passionate individuals I have met along this journey. My time at SSTF has been memorable, through sharing of ideas and knowledge to the laughs we shared I have been privileged to work and with these exceptional women.
So, I have finally reached my destination and I eagerly await to embark for my next journey to wherever it leads! The fun is in getting there!