Culture & sustainability should be at the heart of Africa’s tourism recovery

A Seychelles example. By Jan van der Putten, Area Vice-President Africa & Indian Ocean, Hilton

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Over the past 20 years, tourism has become vital to African economies seeking to create sustainable jobs, without polluting the environment and contributing to climate change. Tourism helps cultures to preserve their traditions and way of life, protect communities and foster national pride. It is especially important for island and archipelago nations, such as the Seychelles, where prospects for economic development are constrained.

Since the 1970s, Seychelles has focused on growing its tourism industry, which is now the largest contributor to the economy and, Hilton is proud to have played a leading role in this development in recent years. Indeed, over the last 12 months we have furthered our long-term commitment to the Seychelles by announcing plans to double our portfolio from three hotels to six with new properties under our Waldorf Astoria, Canopy by Hilton and LXR Hotels & Resorts brands. The first of these, Mango House Seychelles, LXR Hotels & Resorts is set to open this summer.

Mango House is inspired by the beauty of the islands and their rich culture. This convivial retreat, originally built as a family dwelling by celebrated Italian photographer, Gian Paolo Barbieri, offers artisanal charm, locally inspired menus, and bespoke service; allowing guests a genuine opportunity to not only learn about, but truly experience, Seychellois culture.

In spite of the challenges Covid-19 has created for our industry across the board, Seychelles has proved resilient and taken a leadership role in combatting Covid-19, having vaccinated more people per head against COVID-19 than any other country. The creation of travel corridors has enabled tourism to continue whilst remaining focused on authentic local experiences alongside sustainable development and ecotourism. This focus has allowed Seychelles to protect 60% of its land mass – the highest proportion in the world, and a priceless gift for biodiversity. Nevertheless, local biodiversity remains vulnerable to waste management issues, climate change and other issues.

At Hilton, we remain committed to sustainability via our global Travel with Purpose programme. In the Seychelles, our hotels support sustainable practices to preserve the islands’ precious environment and support the local community. Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa is a good example of sustainable tourism in action; supporting coral reef nurseries and inviting guests to visit newly grown coral in tanks pre planting. Meanwhile, the soon-to-open Mango House will offer a series of non-motorised water sports courtesy local eco-adventure company Soul Seychelles.

To increase agricultural self-sufficiency, Seychelles is actively undertaking steps to make the agricultural sector more productive and promote local produce and indigenous materials. To play our part, Hilton Labriz Resort & Spa has been able to source over 80% of its vegetables locally from its own organic garden and a partnership to ensure produce is sourced from inclusive and environmentally conscious practices. This property has also installed a water bottling plant with reusable glass bottles to completely eradicate single-use plastic from the hotel.

The desire for new experiences, for human interaction across borders and cultures, and the appreciation of beauty are universal for all of us. As the world begins to open up to travel once again, African destinations will need to demonstrate that they provide a balanced, safe and sustainable offering to meet the needs of post pandemic travellers. We need look no further than the Seychelles for proof that this can be done.