Biodiversity is a key driver of economic development in the Seychelles. In 2016 alone, the country hosted 327,000 international tourists and the number of visitors has been increasing by 10 percent each year. Over 40 percent of these tourists visit the spectacular terrestrial and marine protected areas that the Seychelles has as key tourism attractions.
Meeting the ambitious targets that the country has set for marine protection will come at a high financial cost, and, although the Seychelles hosts some of the world’s most high-end tourism destinations, it is a developing country. A new Protected Areas Financing Project, supported by UNDP and GEF, has taken up the challenge of addressing sustainable financing for protected areas, and is examining how financial flows and mechanisms can be applied system-wide. Private sector engagement is critical in this process: remote island resorts have the resources to contribute considerable sums to Island Trust Funds, and, thus, to conservation action. Other innovative mechanisms are also being developed, such as the cross-financing scheme through which revenue generated by the heavily-visited Vallée de Mai site in the inner islands, is used to meet the costs of managing the remote Aldabra Word Heritage Site.
Through the Protected Areas Financing Project, the Seychelles National Parks Authority, in partnership with local businesses and island owners, is systematically revitalising its tourism products, enhancing what is already a world-class experience, and encouraging visitors to spend more time (and money!) in the parks. Reorganization of the governance structure is also underway to ensure that increased funding streams are reinvested in the management of protected areas.
These approaches to financing protected areas, which are the engine that drives the ‘blue economy’ of the Seychelles, are being bolstered by other innovative approaches such as building up the Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust Fund (initiated through the 2015 Debt-for-Adaptation Swap), systematic management planning, engagement of fishing fleets, and satellite-based surveillance, amongst other issues. Financing the expansion of the protected area system to accommodate 400,000 km2 of land and ocean territory is a journey of discovery for the Seychelles – one that relies on strong partnerships and active engagement among government, the private sector and communities.