The birth of Seychelles tourism industry occurred in the early 1970’s with the opening of the country’s international airport, situated a convenient 15 minute drive from the capital Victoria and the main centres of population in northern Mahe.
However, far from more traditional tourist resorts and expensive to reach, Seychelles remained the playground of a relatively rich and privileged group of travellers before an expansion in the number of airlines serving the destination and changing holiday patterns pushed down the cost of flying here and allowed the industry to blossom.
Today the country is served by a host of respected international airlines, making it a non stop flight from Europe, the Gulf and Singapore and a one-stop flight from almost any of the world’s major cities.
The dynamic and expanding Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways were the most recent carriers to add a Seychelles service to their extensive international networks, enabling the country to tap into the Gulf and international business community focused in the region, as well as offering a two-stop sun and shopping holiday package.
The back bone to the country’s tourism industry, however, has been the national airline, Air Seychelles.
Currently operating an international fleet of Boeing 767’s, the company has already placed orders for a replacement fleet of Boeing Dreamliners, setting new standards in passenger comfort and environmental sensitivity for the air travel industry.
Nationally owned, Air Seychelles has been responsive to the needs of Seychelles’ tourist trade and targeted its reliable, passenger-focused service to offering direct flights to western Europe, as well as other important tourist suppliers and hubs, such as South Africa, Singapore and Mauritius. Competing against the giants of the international aviation industry Air Seychelles has emphasised its ability to offer the traveller a uniquely Seychelles experience, emphasising the friendly, personalised experience of its non-stop flights to London, Paris and Rome.
Supported by the tailored service of Air Seychelles and the advertising spend and carefully maintained reputations of the other airlines providing flights to the archipelago, the Seychelles tourism industry is currently experiencing an unprecedented period of growth. In 2006 visitor numbers were 9% higher than in 2005, for the first time topping the 140,000 mark. And the projection for 2007 is higher still.
But while neighbouring destinations welcome vast numbers of tourists each year, Seychelles has set its sights on a low-density, high-yield approach to tourism.
Intending to attract no more than 300,000 tourists per annum Seychelles’ tourist trade has geared itself to providing a unique holiday experience, one which justifies spending that little bit extra for a once in a lifetime experience.
The recent rebranding of Seychelles’ tourism marketing strategy – a consultative process conducted by combining the talents of government, the local tourism industry and Seychelles’ international tourism partners – emphasises the myriad different holiday experiences available to visitors to the country.
The 115 different islands of Seychelles offer investment opportunities in eco-tourism, cultural tourism, snorkelling, scuba diving, hiking, unparalleled luxury, specialised restaurants, yachting, cruises, marinas and a host of other activities.
Recognising that Seychellois are able to offer visitors to the country a unique Creole holiday experience, but often lack the capital to invest in a large scale development, the tourism authorities have ring-fenced small scale tourism projects for local businesses and are instead encouraging international investors to use their experience, capital and brand recognition to undertake the four and five star developments outside the capabilities of local entrepreneurs.
This policy has lead to the development of the Small Establishments Enhancement Programme (SEEP) which groups locally owned small establishments, enabling the Seychelles Tourism Board to use its marketing muscle for the benefit of local owners at the same time as allowing the likes of Hilton, Shangri-la, Four Seasons, Southern Sun, La Constance and Beachcomber to establish themselves at the upper end of the tourist market.
A further 30 major tourism developments are expected to be undertaken over the coming years, including hotels backed by Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways. But with 115 different islands in the archipelago there’s still room for all of our visitors to enjoy a relaxed, exclusive vacation.
Since the arrival of Seychelles’ first inhabitants the country has relied on the surrounding rich fishing grounds to support it. In more recent years fishing in Seychelles’ waters has developed from an industry intended purely to sustain the local population to one able to compete internationally as a vital foreign currency earner for Seychelles.
Home to industrial fishing fleets from the European Union and Far East, Seychelles lies in centre of the western Indian Ocean tuna stock’s migratory routes, making it the region’s most efficient hub from which to fish, especially in the light of recent international fuel price rises, which have pushed up the cost of sailing to and from fishing grounds.
Today a thriving, Seychellois dominated artisanal and semi-industrial sector supplies the local market and sends high-value addition fisheries products overseas.
Industrial fisheries are led by European purse-seiner tuna fishing boats and Japanese and Taiwanese long-line fishing boats, which maintain a steady supply to the world’s second largest tuna cannery, Indian Ocean Tuna (IOT) based in Victoria, and the fleet of tuna transhipment vessels moored off-shore.
While canned tuna is IOT’s principle export, the factory and fisheries sector in general, is beginning to move into fields such as tuna loins and other higher-value fisheries products, benefiting from the high quality of the fish caught and long-standing fisheries expertise available in Seychelles And while industrial tuna fishing in the North Atlantic has been accused of robbing local people of food and livelihoods and tuna fishing practices in the Mediterranean have been deemed unsustainable, fishing in Seychelles’ waters generates local employment and is viewed as sustainable.
The use of the outer island, Coetivy, as a profitable artificial prawn farm venture has clearly demonstrated that Seychelles can successfully host aquaculture projects and the experience and knowledge gained through the establishment of the Coetivy farm could quickly be put to use in establishing a similar venture elsewhere in the country.
Seychelles first recognised the potential revenue generating capabilities of off-shore financial services in the early 1990’s but the industry only began to take off in the early years of the following decade. Today the industry is rapidly becoming a third pillar (alongside tourism and fisheries) to the country’s economy.
Part of the reason for its success has been the stringency of the industry regulating International Corporate Services Act, which ensures that all service providers in Seychelles adhere to strict professional standards and are subject to a high level of due diligence prior to the issuance and renewal of a licence.
But while the Act may have slowed the growth of the sector it also ensured the reputation of Seychelles’ off-shore industry, a key ingredient in guaranteeing its long-term viability and differentiating it from other, less scrupulous jurisdictions.
Assisted by the Seychelles International Business Authority (SIBA), companies operating in Seychelles’ off-shore sector today enjoy a range of fiscal advantages not generally available elsewhere. Together with its local and international partners, SIBA is expending considerable resources in the continuous development of local professionals in order to maintain high levels of service delivery and continue to attract legitimate international business activity.
International business company (IBC):
Keen to establish itself as one of the world’s leading off-shore registries, Seychelles offers wide ranging benefits to investors choosing to register as International Business Companies (IBC’s) in the jurisdiction:
Speed of registrary
Competitive license fees fixed for life
No requirement to disclose the beneficial owners of an IBC
Directors may be elected at the first company board meeting
No minimum capital stipulation
Confidentiality guaranteed by law
Bearer shares allowed
Only one director or shareholder is required
No requirement to file accounts with the Registrar
All civil proceedings in respect of IBC's may be heard by a judge in chambers
An IBC may own/manage a vessel/aircraft registered in Seychelles
Register of directors need not be filed with the Registrar
Company Special Licenses (CSL):
Established in Seychelles of-shore sector, businesses operating under a CSL are eligible to pay a business tax rate of only 1.5%. CSL established in Seychelles are free to undertake operations in any other country.
Maintaining an offshore bank account permits investors to access funds internationally; carry out transfers and other transactions and build up a banking history which can move with the investor should they choose to relocate.
Non-domestic banking in Seychelles is regulated by the Central Bank of Seychelles and is administered under the Financial Institutions Act 2004 to cater for offshore as well as domestic banking. The Act makes provision for the licensing of offshore banks and incorporates the necessary flexibility to encourage growth in that sector. It also features full confidentiality with regards to information of its clients, with the obvious exception of criminal investigation cases.
Regulated by the independent Central Bank of Seychelles, the work of commercial and offshore banks is today a significant contributor to Seychelles GDP.
Transparency of transactions and enhanced economic liberalisation of the national economy has been achieved through the establishment of the Non-Bank Financial Services Authority (NBFSA), charged with regulating insurance, mutual funds and stock exchange activities under the Mutual Funds Act and the Securities Act.
The vast majority of Seychelles’ electricity demand is met by the state-owned oil-fuelled power station at Roche Caiman on Mah?’s east coast. Experienced managerial and technical staff, combined with regular spending on equipment updates, ensures a constant supply of power.
The fuel which powers the country’s generators is imported from the Gulf and skilful long term planning by the state oil company SEPEC (Seychelles Petroleum Corporation) led to the development of large bunkerage capacity in the country, allowing Seychelles to become the major distribution hub for the east African seaboard.
Seychelles vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which encompasses 1.3 million km? of the western Indian Ocean is being increasingly viewed as a potential source for as yet unexploited oil reserves. Initial exploration in some areas has already begun, but the potential for further exploration in so far unexamined areas remains.
On a number of the country’s outer islands resort owners and environmentalists are pioneering sustainable energy sources, most notably the use of solar energy.
Domestic energy consumers are also starting to adjust to the benefits of solar energy, with numerous household installing solar water heating equipment.
Seychelles’ year round sunshine makes it an ideal location for the development of solar energy projects and the many islands offer wide scope for tidal, wind and other renewable energy projects to be carried out.
Limited natural resources and labour supply has curtailed the development of a significant manufacturing base in Seychelles, but certain segments have exploited reliable niche markets both in Seychelles and internationally.
Companies such as Chelle Medical, which exports medical equipment from its factory in Seychelles to western Europe, have benefited from Seychelles’ educated work force and pro-business government policies. Today Seychelles offers wide ranging opportunities for innovative light industrial projects at the Providence Industrial estate, the focal point for the nation’s manufacturing sector. Located mid way between the country’s international airport and capital, Victoria, the industrial zone has been set aside for light industrial use, with all of the necessary support infrastructure on hand. And while the investment authorities are ready to giver consideration to any suggested industrial development, a number of fields present themselves as particularly suited to Seychelles, notably in recycling and product design and packaging.
The steep, wooded mountains of Seychelles’ inner islands provide only limited scope of large scale agricultural practices, but local farmers have learnt how to make the best of the country’s long hours of sunshine and plentiful rainfall to grow a wide variety of both tropical and more traditional fruits and vegetables.
High value, luxury food stuffs, such as premium quality tropical fruits and spices, grown to the highest environmental standards and marketed with the cache of Seychelles’ exclusivity are already fetching high prices in European supermarkets.
In order to meet their clients’ demands for a ready supply of high quality, fresh fruit and vegetables, a number of privately owned island resorts have invested heavily into agricultural projects on the islands, with some of the best results achieved using low-input, high yielding hydroponics techniques.