The Ministry responsible for tourism has announced measures aimed at addressing the issue of illegal holiday rentals, which is on the increase in Seychelles.
Proprietors of illegal tourism accommodations have three months — from Tuesday December 12, 2017, to Monday March 12, 2018 — to regularize their activities.
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The Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, Ambassador Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, announced the decision on Monday, during a Press Conference held at his ministry’s headquarters, at Botanical House, Mont Fleuri.
This was in the presence of the Principal Secretary for Tourism, Anne Lafortune, as well as representatives of the tourism department, police, immigration department and the Seychelles Revenue Commission.
According to the tourism department, there are some 200 unlicensed lodgings, which are even being advertised through online booking platforms like Airbnb, offering accommodations starting from 30 Euros and going beyond 100 Euros. These are located on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, with a few units also found on Eden Island.
“On average, the immigration department at the airport comes across three to five cases of tourists going to stay in illegal accommodations every week and they are directed to a licensed one by the tourism office. This reflects the extent of the problem that needs to be remedied. It is not acceptable that we have a few people engaging in such activities, while the majority are doing things correctly,” the minister added.
Proprietors of these illegal lodgings are being asked to contact the tourism department on 4286500, to be guided on the necessary steps they will need to undertake to legalize their activities.
During the three months period, they will be visited by a team comprising of representatives of the tourism department and other relevant agencies including the police, immigration department, Seychelles Licensing Authority, and the Seychelles Revenue Commission, to ensure that they are complying.
“These accommodations will be visited by a team of three people equipped with a master list of all illegal establishments to help them progress their application. The intention is to enforce some discipline and hopefully get all the 200 accommodations to be licensed,” Minister Loustau-Lalanne said.
“We believe it is also important that when we dialogue with them and try to get them to upgrade because some of them will definitely not be up to the required standard. We will help them to reach the standard, nevertheless, we will only give a license to those who meet the minimum criteria; if not their activities will have to stop,” he added.
The decision has been welcomed by the Seychelles Revenue Commission, which is mandated to collect taxes.
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The Assistant Commissioner for Domestic Tax, Marie-France Fanchette said: “We had a meeting with the tourism department and we exchanged a list of accommodations found to be registered on Airbnb but not registered with the revenue commission. We have undertaken a massive exercise to get those people concerned to pay taxes, but although some revenue is being collected, the issue of them not having a license has not been tackled, so we welcome the decision taken by the tourism ministry.”
According to the Seychelles Licensing Authority, a license fee of SCR1,000 is applicable to self-catering establishments and the fee is for a period of five years. The license for guest houses is SCR1,200 for five years.
Minister Loustau-Lalanne said appropriate actions will be taken against owners of illegal tourism lodgings who fail to comply with the three months period allocated for them to regularize their activities.
The Seychelles licensing Authority act makes provision for a minimum fine of SCR 50,000 or a prison term of up to five years.
The issue of illegal tourism-related activities, including illegal accommodations, was raised in this year’s Multi-Sectoral meetings that discuss and propose solutions to challenges affecting the tourism industry.
Minister Loustau-Lalanne said: “The Tourism Department was asked to conduct an investigation into illegal tourism accommodation in Seychelles, in fact, illegal tourism activities. We established a committee that has been working for some time now and they have made some recommendations. We took those recommendations to the cabinet of ministers and the government has now taken a decision that we should first tackle the issue of illegal accommodations. This is aimed at safeguarding the standard of product offered to visitors and ensuring the safety of tourists holidaying in Seychelles.”
The Tourism Department will soon be tackling the issue of boats, yachts and other hire craft operators offering illegal excursions to tourists and will eventually tackle other illegal tourism-related activities.