Also present from government were the Ministers for Tourism & Culture, Alain St. Ange, for Foreign Affairs & Transport, Joel Morgan, for Finance, Jean-Paul Adam, and for Fisheries & Agriculture, Wallace Cosgrow, as well as senior representatives of the various ministries and the Police, and the CEO’s of STB, SCAA and Air Seychelles.
The private sector was represented by the Chairman of the Seychelles Hospitality & Tourism Association, Freddy Karkaria and several SHTA Board members, as well as the Chairman of the SCCI, Marco Francis and several of the Chamber’s councilors.
The Task force reviewed actions on various key topics from the previous meeting in July and today’s agenda. Vital points discussed covered destination marketing and in particular the air access and marketing strategy for China and India, update of the Air Seychelles Paris service, continued high cost and difficulty of doing business in Seychelles that affect efficiency, productivity and competitiveness, critical issues linked to unnecessary bureaucracy in regards to Employment especially the foreign labor quota system which is not being respected in several cases by the Ministry of Employment itself. The Seychelles safety label was also discussed as there is today still serious concerns on safety and security given recent spate of burglaries and thefts, on occasion with violence, that have recently affected tourists holidaying on Mahe, Praslin and La Digue.
The meeting was also informed that a draft Air Transport Policy paper has been circulated and members of the trade are invited to submit comments and suggestions. In that light, it was agreed that a Working Group be formed to manage and facilitate this process so that the final Policy Paper may be submitted to the Council of Ministers in reasonable time. The Working Group will be made up of appropriately experienced persons from the various stakeholders who will be invited to apply their knowledge and experience in a holistic and pragmatic manner by putting destination Seychelles first so as to achieve a policy that will fully and effectively support the optimum development of air access and tourism from both an international and national perspective.
The Minister for Finance announced that his Ministry has finalized the policy and legal changes covering when a Tourism Operator may be liable to Withholding Tax and Public Ruling 2015-4 is available to download on the SRC website. Members were pleased to note that most technical services paid to a non-resident for the purposes of marketing, sales and promotion will no longer be subject to withholding tax with retrospective effect from 2009.
The Vice-President decided to set up a meeting next Tuesday 8th September to chair a meeting between the SHTA and the SCCI and the Ministers of Employment and of Home Affairs to seek to eliminate once and for all the sticking issues that continue to plague businesses with regards to the GOP processes as well as the fair and equitable application of the Quota system.
The tourism sector was invited to provide their inputs and ideas for the 2016 National Budget. Initial discussions ensued and it was agreed that the Minister of Finance will meet with the SHTA and the SCCI next Friday 11th September to receive the SHTA’s initial inputs. He assured the members that this will be a first meeting to get the ball rolling and that his ministry remains open-minded and eager to continue to meet and take in ideas and suggestions on all aspects affecting the Budget. Furthermore, these discussions going forward will not be limited to Budget 2016 but will take also a longer term outlook so that we can achieve a comprehensive road map for consideration and application beyond 2016.The Vice-President invited all parties to also give serious reflection and analysis to moving the tourism sector to 100% pricing in Seychelles Rupees in 2017.
The meeting was held as always in a very cordial and convivial atmosphere where healthy debate prevailed. The SHTA is pleased with the news on Withholding Tax. It is the SHTA’s fervent hope that we will soon see some more concrete outcomes following next week’s meetings.