Just a year ago, the possibility of Seychelles seeing a significant decline in visitors seemed unthinkable.The Indian Ocean archipelago, famed for its breathtaking beaches and jungle landscapes, was quickly becoming one of many world’s most alluring destinations, and its popularity was only growing.
The glamorous island nation of Seychelles used to be a pirate haven centuries ago. CNN’s Richard Quest goes on a real-life search for one of Mahe’s most infamous hidden treasures.
The number of visitors had increased by 4%, and tourism officials were bracing themselves for what appeared to be another massively profitable year.
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The Covid-19 pandemic:
on the other hand, put an end to almost any strategy or prediction made for 2020, and the world as we knew it has irreversibly changed.
The Seychelles, which are 1,600 kilometers off the coast of Tanzania and rely heavily on revenue from international visitors, was hit hard by a coronavirus, as were many other places that rely heavily on international visitors.
Even though the 115-island nation managed to fend off the virus relatively well, with just 3,798 cases and 16 deaths at the time of writing, the virus’s economic impact was enormous.
Tourist arrivals were down 70% last year, according to the Seychelles Tourism Board, and the sector’s 2020 revenue was down $368 million.
In terms of tourism operations:
the country had almost come to a halt,” SylvestreRadegonde, Seychelles’ minister of foreign affairs and tourism, tells CNN Journey.
“And, since our economy is heavily reliant on tourism, other practices have slowed as well.
“It includes anything from fishing to forestry, arts and crafts, restaurants, and bars. As a result, we started the year in a really bad place.”
Officials, on the other hand, have gone to great lengths to ensure that tourists can return easily and, most importantly, safely.
All passengers, with the exception of those traveling from South Africa, will be able to visit Seychelles starting Thursday (March 25). Only hours after the restrictions were lifted, Radegonde said.
“Our weekly numbers have been about 200 so far, so having a plane full of people is nice.”
Another 100 or so people were expected to arrive later Thursday, and hundreds more are expected in the coming days.
Reopening technique that is ‘Aggressive’
From March 25, Story Seychelles will open its doors to visitors from all over the world, The transition comes as part of a “robust” vaccine rollout plan that aims to completely vaccinate at least 70% of the estimated 98,000-strong population of Seychelles.
After receiving a donation of approximately 50,000 vaccine doses from the United Arab Emirates government, officials placed the plan into action.
“The primary dose of the vaccine has been received by over 90% of our residents, and the second dose has been received by over 45 percent,” says Radegonde.
“We expect to achieve our target within the next few weeks, or at the very least by the end of April.”
Of course, with ever-changing border restrictions and the possibility of a third coronavirus outbreak in Europe, many travelers would be reluctant to book a trip just yet.
However, the amount of bookings earned so far has inspired the Seychelles tourism team, and they agree that now is the right time to welcome visitors back.
“We’re confident that we’ve earned the immunity that we deserve,” Radegonde says. “We’ve educated the establishments. We now have all of the required amenities.
“The health-care services are in place, and the steps we’ve put in place are effective. As a result, we’re ready to reopen.”
After closing its borders for the first time in March 2020, Seychelles began a phased reopening in June, with the aim of gradually easing restrictions for visitors from “low risk” countries.Indeed, reopening when most of the world is still dealing with the virus would not be without its difficulties.
When the Maldives reopened unconditionally to international visitors in July 2020, it became a much more appealing option for tourists, particularly because rival destinations such as Tahiti, Bali, and Phuket remained closed.
However, officers were forced to tighten restrictions once more a few months later, forcing all visitors to show evidence of a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival in the Maldives beginning in September.
Despite these initial challenges, the unique vacation spot managed to keep infection rates low last year and draw roughly 500,000 visitors before beginning its six-month vaccination rollout, which is likely a positive sign for Seychelles.
The Road to Recovery
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism revenues in the famous vacation spot fell by 62 percent in 2020.
Although allowing international visitors to enter regardless of vaccination status is a significant move in the right direction, the current travel ban in the United Kingdom, one of Seychelles’ most important European markets, remains a roadblock.
The earliest date that Britons are likely to be able to take a holiday abroad is May 17. Anyone found traveling overseas from England without a valid reason earlier than that date will face a £5,000 ($7,000) penalty.
Seychelles is also on the UK’s pink list, which means that the UK and Irish visitors would have to pay £1,750 ($2,400) for a “quarantine package” that includes accommodation in a government-approved resort, transportation to the lodging, and Covid-19 testing when they return home.
“Unfortunately, there are still restrictions in a number of our conventional source markets, and people are unable to travel,” says Sherin Francis, the Seychelles Tourism Board’s chief government officer.
According to Francis, the majority of visitors arriving in Seychelles are from Russia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, India, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates.
“We wouldn’t normally rely on these markets for tourism arrivals, but we’ve learned that no market is insignificant.”
Guests are expected to wear face masks, follow social distancing guidelines, and sanitize their palms regularly, as is the case in many parts of the world.
Regardless of the limits, Francis emphasizes that the experience of vacationing in Seychelles is unrivaled.
“There are currently very few destinations open to tourism with clear, straightforward entry measures,” she says.
Priorities for Security
There are no quarantine requirements or motion limits for visitors to Seychelles.
“And, true to our motto, we really are ‘another country.’ I don’t believe there is another destination that can match this level of adventure.
“The character, the slow pace of life, the novice lush foliage, and the beautiful beaches. Temperatures are hot all year round.
“All of this adds up to make the best places to stay in Seychelles a truly magical place to visit, particularly when people are looking for outdoor activities, nature, and fresh air.”
Chook Island, located near the equator, is one of the most unique of the 115 islands that make up Seychelles. It’s typically home to a unique character whose appearance transports you back in time.
At this time, approximately 535 resort establishments in Seychelles including Story Seychelles Resort have received the required training and are authorized to receive international visitors.
Although having the country’s tourism industry back on track is a top priority, keeping both visitors and residents safe remains a top priority.
“Security has always been a good USP for us,” Francis says.
As a result, the brand new policies will be checked on a regular basis to ensure that “the health and safety of tourists and the local community are not jeopardized.”
Radegonde explains, “Our health authorities have been interested in everything we’ve done.” “Without their blessing, we wouldn’t have made the choices we did.
“We are confident that the safeguards we have placed in place are adequate. In reality, no one knows where Covid goes, so this can be a fluid situation.
“Every day, you learn about various variations. As a result, if anything changes, we’ll adjust our protocol accordingly. It will never be 100 percent error-free. People will continue to become contaminated, there is no question about it.
“However, we are certain that, as a result of the steps we have put in place, we will be able to protect not only our residents but also our visitors.”