“High tourism taxes is a hindrance to regional travel,” said Jean Claude de L’Estrac, the Secretary General of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), during the official launching of the Indian Ocean Commission Ministerial Conference for Tourism and Transport that was held this week in the Seychelles. The conference painted a picture of why traveling within the Indian Ocean Island destinations was more expensive than the European Union. Present also at the meeting was Minister Jean-Paul Adam, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs.
The Indian Ocean Commission is of the consensus that tax is one of the key components which is hindering robust tourism growth in the region. Although the Indian Ocean Commission is in agreement that high tourism tax impacts heavily on tourism growth in the region, its Secretary General took the argument to the next level by putting at cause the lack of air connectivity within islands of Indian Ocean.
The region is of agreement that open air space and a low-cost regional airline could beef up tourism growth. The Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture, Mr. Alain St.Ange, said in his intervention at the official opening of Indian Ocean Commission Ministerial Conference for Tourism and Transport that delegates of the meetings work together for strong resolutions to be tabled in the forthcoming Heads of State and of Government summit of Indian Ocean Commission which will be held in the Comoros.
“We are obliged to leave the Ministerial meeting with strong resolutions. It is not acceptable that we spend two years discussing about the future of our Islands, and still go empty-handed to the Head of State summit. Tourism is a primary sector in the Indian Ocean region. We are all happy when it grows, but when it stagnates, the region suffers, and our respective islands individually suffer as a result,” said Minister St.Ange of the Seychelles.
Minister St.Ange said one of the key formal resolutions that should come out of the meeting is open air space within the islands of the Indian Ocean.
“It will take time to create a regional airline company, because it can only happen after we have agreed on an open air space between ourselves for our respective airlines to adequately connect our region. Sometime it is easier for the Indian Ocean Islands to give air access to international carriers rather than privileging its own regional companies. We should be able to work for our region and put our mouth where our money is,” Alain St.Ange, the Minister of Tourism and Culture said.
Minister St.Ange also spoke on a resolution for islands of the Indian Ocean to allow regional carriers to operate at least one daily flight to each of the Indian Ocean Commission island member destinations.
“At this point in time it will be impossible for all islands of the Indian Ocean Commission to agree to open its air space for the daily flights of regional carriers. But one or two islands can take the lead. We will then make sure that these airlines are regionally branded,” Minister St.Ange said, further explaining that some islands of the Indian Ocean have the potential to become a regional hub.
“Seychelles is a small island, and we do not aspire to become the big regional hub. It’s true we are well positioned in the Indian Ocean region. But our Indian Ocean region has the potential to house a big airline hub, and the first island to move will claim that needed facility,” Minister St.Ange said.
It was Minister Joel Morgan, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Internal Affairs and Transport, who officially declared the Ministerial Meeting open after addressing delegates from all the Indian Ocean islands who had gathered at the Kempinski Resort for the three-day meeting.