The Seychelles Island, a tourism-dependent economy in the Indian ocean is hopeful of great recovery of the Tourism sector in 2022.
The public sector led by the country’s Ministry of Tourism and foreign affairs with the collaborative efforts of the vibrant private sector is encouraged by the booking trend and measures put in place to see tourism bouncing back in style.
In a recent trip of VoyagesAfriq to the paradise island to access the readiness and measures put in place to give travellers confidence to travel to the island nation, we observed how the local population have strictly observed the health and sanitary protocols.
“Even before arriving at the Seychelles International Airport, a traveler is expected to complete the Seychelles Islands Travel Authorization system. The platform powered by Travizory was introduced as part of the measures to curb the spread, reduce importation of covid-19 cases and also to make travel seamless and secure for passengers and the country.
As it moves to enhance security screening and centralize traveler data, the Department of Civil Aviation, Ports & marine has introduced biometric data analysis capabilities, combining data from airlines with data from travelers. Using facial recognition technology, selfies uploaded during the Travel Authorization application are matched to traveler faces on arrival. This according to the Ministry of Civil Aviation is a new process to centralise the information and make travelling to the island hassle-free.
The launch of a state-of-the-art biometric corridor for health travel screening at Seychelles International Airport makes the island nation only the second country in the world after the UAE to leverage walk-through biometrics at its borders. In addition, it guarantees contactless and secure travel and delivers an unmatched customer experience for all travelers arriving by air.
Fully integrated with the Seychelles Islands Travel Authorization system, the new “biocorridor” checks temperatures, validate if each traveler matches an approved, valid authorization through state-of-the-art facial recognition technology, and classifies travelers for handling based on pre-departure risk assessments.”
The Department of tourism in Seychelles in December 2021 celebrated the surpassing of 2020 tourist arrival numbers which were key milestones in this uncharted territory the world and tourism sector particularly are going through.
Speaking to VoyagesAfriq from Botanical House ,Mont Fleuri in Mahe. the Principal Secretary at the Department of Tourism Mrs. Sherin Francis said the archipelago island since the outbreak of the pandemic studied the situation and offered the best possible solutions to minimize the impact on the tourism sector.
Considering the restrictions and difficulties travelers had to endure, it was great and encouraging the milestone we achieved. This year (2021) we have managed to catch up with almost 50% of our arrivals compared to the performance we did in 2019”. We also managed to grow new emerging and secondary markets while the traditional markets still had some restrictions.
Explaining the new structure of Tourism Seychelles, Mrs. Francis said, the new changes are to consolidate the structure with one reporting command under the principal secretary and rationalise resources. ‘one of the first priorities is to look at product diversification within the tourism sector. Here we are looking to encourage investments into other areas other than accommodation activities, leisure and cultural activities amongst others’’ she said.
Asked about the need for the destination to go beyond to offer something different other than sea sand and sun, she responded by saying the Department had already planned to roll out the communication and project other exciting things one can enjoy in the Seychelles before the pandemic hit.
‘’We are placing a lot of focus on cultural tourism, community-based tourism, so we will be launching this year, a series of community-based experiences that visitors can engage in when they visit Seychelles in all the various districts of Mahe, Praslin, La Digue. That would also give visitors a lot of opportunities of experiences to fill their itineraries while visiting Seychelles. ‘’
‘’Throughout the pandemic, we have diversified our markets with the likes of Russia, UAE, Israel and Eastern European countries, these are not new markets, we have been investing in these markets over more than a decade, but these markets have been the most reactive markets and thus classified as our Go to markets’’
This period has also allowed us to take stock in terms of tourism carrying capacity, The updated carrying capacity studies for the main islands has recently been completed. The studies hope to create the right path for tourism for Seychelles and recommends new measures to direct growth in the sector. This is also to ensure infrastructure that supports the tourism industry are able to keep pace with the developments.
According to her, even though the new Covid 19 variable exists, the Department was optimistic of a positive outlook for 2021 for the sector considering the worldwide vaccination programme.
Mrs. Francis postulated that despite the travel restrictions across its main markets, the ministry is hoping by the end of 2022 the country should have at least about two-third of arrivals compared to the year 2019.
She added that the silver lining of this pandemic is also offering the opportunity for economic diversification as Tourism was at the receiving end. The principal secretary was proud of the work done by the Tourism sector in uniting to restart in a safe and responsible way.
With its impressive vaccination drive, at least eight out of the ten persons you meet on the street have face coverings and all shops or public eateries have strictly enforced the covid 19 protocols, it brims confidence for travellers who make it to the destination of choice.
There are at least two round checks by stewards of the cat cocos boat to ensure that all passengers have their face masks/coverings on. There are sanitary machines and points on board encouraging all to sanitize while on board and it becomes necessary.
The General Manager of the newly opened L’escale Hotel Marina and Spa Cyrille Carofano told VoyagesAfriq that the national measures to control covid of which they take direction is commendable and they as a hotel have gone further to implement additional actions to make the guest enjoy their stay.
‘’Seychelles has always been a destination for its beauty and nature, we have 40% of our land that is a natural reserve so it’s extremely protected and a unique experience for our guests to discover. The beaches are stunning along with breathtaking views from the mountain, there is a diversity in sessions. So it’s a lot of opportunities for the guest to have a different option with island type. We have a coral island, granite island, and the main island which is very vibrant and offer a lot of option in terms of dining experience a little bit of nightlife as well.’’ Mr. Carofano said.
We pride ourselves on the state of security of the destination. Tourists and travelers will discover something they will basically have the opportunity to be outside of the outside the box and to feel free again and to be able to interact with nature again, especially during this time of lockdown, so I invite people to consider Seychelles destination number one for the holiday.
The General Manager of 7 Degrees South, Andre Butler Payette is convinced Destination Seychelles has managed the situation in a way that places public health as a priority as well as gradually introducing measures to keep the economy going.
’’ I believe Seychelles has done well in striking the balance between public health concerns and rebooting the much-needed tourism economy. Because without it we would have had another crisis on our hands. The measures that we currently have in place are adequate to protect the local people as well as not being a deterrent for travelers to Seychelles. We are not asking anything out of the ordinary. Whilst in Seychelles, you are free to explore and move around the island.’’
‘’With over 85% of the population fully vaccinated, it is not only a safety net for the Seychellois people but helps the guests travel with confidence to the Island’’ Mr Butler Payet added.
At La Digue, the third most populated island of the Seychelles small businesses whose livelihoods are dependent on the tourism businesses became innovative and introduced other staycation packages which helped promote domestic tourism as well as save the tourism sector.
Owner of Casa Deela Robert Pool said “We offered customers massive marketing and promotion like staycation promotions which worked very well. We also did television adverts which had a lot of domestic travellers booking rooms most weekends and also, we had to drop prices to attract customers. “This kept us running as a business and helped generate revenues enough to pay staffs and utility bills,” he added.
Our conversation with other frontline personnel like the taxi drivers, tour guides and restaurant operators expressed delight in the gradual return of the tourism activities to the island. They make the point that it is through collective efforts can the virus and return to full economic activities be achieved. Paul a taxi driver told us that, the virus will not go away and we need to accept that fact and accommodate it in a safe manner.
A tour guide baes in Praslin and owner Laboudalloniana Tours Praslin Medina Laboudallon told VoyagesAfriq that due to the covid situation with the new variant it’s not easy with lots of booking cancellations
‘’Covid is here to stay so being a little bit innovative different from the rest and focus more on Seychelles culture. For Seychelles tourism it’s our number 1 pillar for us tourism it’s like butter on bread. It feeds mostly all Seychelles families in a different aspect. From farmers to fishermen to waitresses etc. Now we have omicron in Seychelles with cruise ship cancellations but hopefully by February things will pick up’’
Brief about Seychelles Island
The Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, off East Africa. It’s home to numerous beaches, coral reefs and nature reserves, as well as rare animals such as giant Aldabra tortoises. Mahé, a hub for visiting the other islands, is home to the capital Victoria. It also has the mountain rainforests of Morne Seychellois National Park and beaches, including Beau Vallon and Anse Takamaka.
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