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Balancing tourism growth with social, economic, & environmental health: Seychelles carrying capacity

Guiding Principle 1 - See the whole picture: Recognize that most tourism by its nature involves the destination as a whole, not only industry businesses, but also its ecosystems, natural resources, cultural assets and traditions, communities, aesthetics, and built infrastructure.

As tourism grows, particularly in small island destinations, it places increased pressure on the destination’s natural resources and spaces, communities, and built infrastructure. If destination managers neglect to take these impacts into consideration and let tourism grow unmanaged, it risks overwhelming local systems, damaging fragile ecosystems, reducing the quality of life of residents, and degrading the visitor experience.

In Seychelles, the leadership recognizes the need to continually monitor visitor impacts and base tourism development decisions on the needs and resources of the islands. Regular carrying capacity studies, such as the one conducted by Sustainable Travel International in 2019, are used to assess current conditions and understand the implications of continued tourism growth.

These studies take a holistic and participatory approach that analyzes the health and carrying capacity of the destination as a whole, including social, economic, infrastructure, and environmental conditions. A number of indicators are examined, such as the amount of waste generated by hotels, the number of cruise ship passengers, and visitor perceptions of varying levels of crowding at beaches.

The findings of the studies are used to define a roadmap for low-impact, high value tourism development which outlines the ideal conditions and strategies to achieve them. Over time, Seychelles can use this framework to monitor tourism impacts and guide policy-making in order to balance growth with risk.

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1 Comment

Donald Leadbetter
Donald Leadbetter
Feb 24, 2023

Thank you for sharing the Seychelles example. It seems that they now have a useful roadmap and set of indicators that can be used to determine policy. Looking at actual policy decision making, are there destinations out there that have translated concerns about rapid tourism growth into policy changes? What types of changes, and what have been the economic, environmental, and quality of life results? Is anyone capping lodging supply or airline passenger capacities? Thank you.

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