Maintaining a strong presence and visibility internationally remains a core marketing strategy for the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) in 2021, where most activities are being conducted virtually due to the global pandemic.
During the second and third quarter of 2020, STB organised or participated in 1,751 virtual events. The chief executive of the board, Sherin Francis, told SNA on Thursday that this year she and her team “are capitalizing on these virtual opportunities to increase visibility for our destination.”
“We are also, together with our partners, trying to develop other niches and products to keep Seychelles attractive and relevant. Our main challenge at the moment is air connectivity as our airline partners are struggling with keeping Seychelles on their chart. We have seen the example of British Airways announcing stopping the Seychelles route,” said Francis.
She added that there may potentially be other airlines that will follow. Another challenge Francis outlined was the country’s ability to remain as visible as its competitors due to the limited resources that Seychelles currently has.
“The situation is very dynamic therefore extremely difficult to predict. Forecasting at this point is not realistic as any data collected is dependent on many variable factors that are independent of our control,” explained the chief executive.
According to Francis bookings are frequently being cancelled “as they are dependent on many other elements such as travel restrictions and measures, air transport availability, travel confidence based on the pandemic evolution, destination entry procedure and how volatile it is. Long-term holiday planning is nowadays almost impossible for most people.”
Talking about Seychelles’ tourism performance for 2020, Francis said that last year started on an exceptional note, indicating another record year for the industry. The numbers, however, plummeted with the start of the pandemic.
“In the first quarter of the year, we had already seen an increase in arrivals reflecting a significant increase from the previous year. With the start of the pandemic and its evolution crippling the travel industry, it has been a very challenging time for us and this is reflective in the numbers,” explained Francis.
The CEO added “however difficult this year has been, we are grateful to still have an industry that is still functioning and we are working hard to put it back on its feet,” said Francis.
In 2020, a total of 114,229 visitors disembarked in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean — which represents a drop of 70 percent when compared to arrivals in 2019, when the island nation welcomed a total of 381,083 visitors.
“At the start of 2020, we were predicting to have a 3 percent increase for the year which would have meant that we would have been nearing the 400,000 visitors had we not been into a pandemic,” noted Francis.
The highest number of visitors in a week recorded since August 1, 2020, when Seychelles reopened its borders to commercial flights after travel restriction was imposed in March, was 3,843 arrivals. This was recorded in week 51, which is the week ending December 20, 2020.
With Seychelles currently experiencing community transmission of the virus, Francis said that “should we need to close the airport to keep ourselves safe, it would be very consequential for us as a country considering we depend a lot on imports, from food to medicine to other essential items.”
“A lot of businesses in Seychelles rely on air connectivity which is driven by the tourism traffic. We are vulnerable as we not only depend on the forex but also on the accessibility of air transport for the freight of our supplies and no tourism means no flights as well,” concluded Francis.