In recent years, the economy of the Seychelles has expanded to include a variety of industries, with tourism becoming a particular focus. However, in the early days of its development, the collection of islands known as the Seychelles thrived on exports. Most of the money in the islands came from selling the goods that were harvested on plantations. These included copra, vanilla and cinnamon. While these still bring in some money for the Seychelles, they are no longer the driving force in the economy.
The Tourism Industry
In 1976, the Seychelles became independent, and this had a huge impact upon the economy, as did the opening of the international airport a few years earlier. Specifically, the tourism industry began to thrive alongside pronounced efforts to conserve the islands' natural resources and wildlife. The beauty of the forests and its inhabitants is the main draw, so tourism is focused on bringing in people who appreciate the wonders that nature can provide.
Tourism packages, including accommodations, are very popular. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit every year, most of them from Europe. Money from tourism accounts for about 20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, bringing in more than $600 million in a typical year, and about 15 percent of the work force has jobs related to this industry. The government continues to ponder ways of expanding on the existing tourism strategy in order to make the Seychelles even more appealing as a destination.
However, because of the focus on conservationism, the islands have not been developed to the extent that many tourist destinations have, so there is not as much opportunity to make money once tourists have arrived on the island, and because it is so far away from most of the people who would come to visit, tourism cannot thrive as the country's only industry.
The Fishing Industry
Much of the money in the Seychelles today comes from fishing, which is a popular industry since water is so plentiful and the area around the Seychelles has 1000 different species of fish. Some of these are protected and cannot be eaten, but many of the fish make for tasty meals, and Seychelles cooking frequently incorporates seafood.
Tuna is a very big export, and the majority of the revenue from fishing comes from that. The Seychelles fishing industry has a strong connection to Heinz, which owns more than half of the Seychelles Tuna Canning Factory. Aside from tuna, the most important source of income in the fishing sector is prawns. Money also comes in from foreign fishermen who pay license fees for the privilege of fishing in Seychelles waters.
In addition to fishing, farming is quite popular. Between these two industries, people in the Seychelles have little to fear from hunger. Food is always available, with copra, tea, bananas, coconuts, sweet potatoes and vanilla among the most profitable resources. Of course, some of it is exported, and this is a significant source of income. However, most of what the people in the Seychelles consume - about 90 percent of it - is imported from other countries.
Although it is a rather small aspect of the economy, manufacturing is a factor as well. There are some manufacturers, though most of the factories are fairly small-scale operations. Some of this is tied in with agriculture in the form of food processing plants. Other production companies include factories that assemble cigarettes, televisions, metal sheets, detergents, paint and furniture. The largest such company, a brewery, employs about a hundred people.
Oil Drilling + Exploration
One fairly recent addition to the economy is the development of offshore drilling and related technologies. There is great money to be had in oil, and drilling has revealed that there are areas near the Seychelles that have the potential to be major sources of oil and huge generators of revenue. These resources have only begun to be explored. Of course, given the focus in the Seychelles upon cooperation with the environment, the impact that such drilling would have upon the landscape is an important consideration.
Along with the tourism industry, the real estate industry has begun to expand as business owners buy up properties for hotels and other lodgings and very enthusiastic tourists sometimes decide to stay in the islands. While the islands are very remote, their beauty makes them an enticing option for those who have the money to consider living there.
Because of its reliance on imports, the economy in the Seychelles is not especially stable. Moreover, the damage to the tuna industry has been extensive lately because of climate change, and this has had a negative effect on the economy. Another factor that has had a negative impact is the fear and difficulty of flying that has increased since September 11, 2001. This has had a detrimental effect on the economy as travel to the Seychelles is dependent upon air transportation.
Despite these struggles, the Seychelles economy continues to hold its own. With several different sources of significant income upon which to draw, the country is able to recovery from downturns in one sector or another. Currently, the exchange rate of the Seychelles is about 14 rupees for every US dollar. Growth is slow but steady, and about 98 percent of the adult population is employed, helping to contribute to a Gross Domestic Product of over $650 million. As interest in all things green continues, the tourism sector should improve, since the Seychelles provide such an inspiring first-hand example of a thriving ecosystem and several species brought back from the edge of extinction.
Residents of the Seychelles continue to work toward finding ways of improving the economy, from building up the industries to enticing more people to come and visit the tropical shores of these lovely islands. With this type of spirit, these islands will continue to prosper in spite of any setbacks that may arise.