A week after Seychelles opened its borders to most countries, 3,800 visitors have arrived in the island nation, a figure that a top Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) officer describes as “more than satisfactory.”
Seychelles reopened it borders on Thursday, March 25 to all visitors from any country except South Africa so as to relaunch its tourism industry amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The chief executive of STB, Sherin Francis, told SNA that “visitors’ arrivals for the last week have been more than satisfactory taking into consideration all the challenges we are facing.”
“So far the signs are promising and gradually, we will be able to reclaim our industry,” said Francis.
A statistician from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Aubrey Fock-Tave, informed SNA on Thursday that for the week of March 25 to March 31, Seychelles saw the arrival of 3,800 visitors. This represents 55 percent of the 6,820 total visitor arrivals since the start of 2021.
Data collected between January 1 and March 28 by NBS, the year-to-date figure for 2021 shows that 5,579 visitors disembarked in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Compared to 2020, when 92,646 visitors landed in the country for the same period, the year-to-date visitor arrivals have dropped by 94 percent.
The current leading market for tourist arrivals is the United Arab Emirates (UAE) followed by Israel and other European countries in second and third place respectively. European countries are traditionally the leading markets of Seychelles, and when the pandemic started affecting arrivals last year, the five leading markets were Germany, France, UK and North Ireland, UAE and India.
“We are very mindful that our traditional source markets would take a while to become stable in view of the evolution of the pandemic and the various restrictions that still exist in these markets. Our strategy is to tap into what we termed as the ‘go-to markets’ where through marketing intelligence data we saw there were pent-up demands,” said Francis.
In a recent interview, Francis said that the board is currently focusing on promoting the island destination in Israel, India, Russia, UAE, and certain Eastern European as restrictions continue to impede travel between Seychelles and the core, traditional markets.
“It was important for the short term that we identify a list of what we call the ‘go-to markets’ where we know that investing in them will bring a faster return. This is provided that we have good air connectivity and that travel restriction eases in those markets, there are travel corridors established, visitors do not require quarantine upon arrival in Seychelles or going back to these countries,” said Francis.
The chairperson of the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association (SHTA), Sybille Cardon, outlined on Thursday that even if “we are all happy that the country has opened its borders to most tourists, it is not all establishments that are getting reservations and getting tourists.”
She said that things are expected to change once lockdown is lifted in Europe, which is the main market for small establishments.
“It is true that at the moment it is mostly the large hotels that are getting reservations, however, we cannot complain about this because even if a client is staying at a large hotel, they go on excursions, to restaurants, or buy souvenirs, it is helping the country move forward,” said Cardon.
She added that “May looks better than April, however, after that we are not too sure what will happen as for summer holidays, most European countries are doing everything to ensure that Europeans remain at home and spend their money in Europe.”
“We are lucky that clients are coming back to Seychelles and that the government took the bold decision to reopen the country. We need to make the most of this occasion to welcome our clients in the best way possible. This will ensure that when they go back home, they will pass on the message that Seychelles is welcoming and that everything is okay,” she said.