Seychelles Do Tourism Right, Traveler Editor Says

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Economically, can this cap on tourism last?

Yes. A destination can either go for volume or for quality. If you go for fewer people who spend $1,000 a day versus lots and lots of people spending $200 to $300 a day, you've got a much better building block on which to erect your tourist industry. If you look at the Caribbean as an example, the islands that have done well in the long run, like Montserrat or St. Barts, have been selective about their customers. They've been selective by pricing a certain customer out or by limiting the physical plant to appeal to a certain kind of person.

So are certain destinations going to get pricier?

Many will, yes. If you go to a national park in 15 or 20 years, it's either going to be more expensive to get in or you won't be able to get in unless you book years in advance. The harder it is to get in, the more people want to go. So the more you pique demand the more you charge for it, and by inverse portion you have fewer footprints in the sand.

So in five years, how do you see the Seychelles doing?

Here's what I was told by a guy who's developing a resort on the island. He said, "Our goal is that your son will visit and then come back here in 30 years and say it hasn't changed a bit." That's a pretty great goal. The Seychelles is, to me, the quintessential exercise in preserving a destination as it was and is. It's 2002, and these islands are pretty much the way they were in 1950. In 1974, the only way you could get there was by steamer. There was no airport. Now there's an airport, but there are only a couple of direct flights a day. So keep your fingers crossed that the Seychelles won't change. So far, so good.

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