COVID-19: Health and tourism press conference |05 June 2020
Safe establishment certification a must
By Elsie Pointe
As COVID-19-free Seychelles reopens its borders and tourism resumes in phases, hotels, guest-houses and other businesses in the tourism industry have been instructed to prepare to safely welcome tourists back onto our shores.
Tourism establishments in the country have been tasked with formulating their business-specific standard operating procedures (SOPs) based on the guidelines set by the tourism and health departments.
These guidelines were communicated to the tourism enterprises last week, principal secretary for tourism Anne Lafortune said in a press conference yesterday at the Sheikh Khalifa diagnostic centre.
Also in attendance were the chief executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) Sherin Francis and chairperson of the board of Public Health Authority Dr Conrad Shamlaye.
“We have asked them to come up with their own SOPs by identifying elements in our guidelines that are relevant to their businesses,” PS Lafortune explained.
All tourism establishments are expected to undertake this process – from luxury resorts to self-caterings to car rental services to tour guides and commission agents.
Once SOPs are submitted to the tourism department, approval will come in the way of a safe establishment certification.
Failure to gain such a certification would result in the establishment remaining inoperative until it meets the required standards during the age of the ‘new normal’.
PS Lafortune explained that it is vital for hotels and guesthouses to be certified, since visitors must show a booking voucher from a certified hotel upon entry.
During phase one of the re-opening of borders, the authorities are targeting visitors who have the means to fly in via chartered flights or private jets to vacation at island resorts.
So far Cousine Island Resort is the only certified island resort while another is in the process of gaining its certification.
“We are expecting to get a lot more SOP submissions during the course of next week, especially from the island resorts,” PS Lafortune noted.
On the other hand, hotels and guesthouses on the main islands have a longer period of time to develop their SOPs since they will not be receiving much clientèle during the first phase of tourism resumption.
PS Lafortune has called on these establishment to “take their time” in establishing robust SOPs as they wait on the second phase.
Dr Shamlaye added: “We are calling for sanitary and hygiene measures not only to deal with COVID-19 but also to improve the industry and make clients more comfortable with their stay in Seychelles. Obviously we have some additional measures in place such as health checks on staff and visitors on a daily basis.”
“This is extremely important because as much as we screen people on arrival, it is possible for an infected person to go through the process without being identified. These daily check-ups at the hotels will ensure that any potential case is discovered. Constant vigilance is crucial for the protection of the staff and the population at large,” he explained.
Dr Shamlaye noted that strict measures and social distancing should continuously be observed, even when the country seems to be COVID-19 free.
In regards to the entry application process required for visitors, Dr Shamlaye revealed that the department of health has received around six applications from visitors hoping to fly in with private jets and another six from those on yachts.
It generally takes around two to three working days for an entry application to be processed, Dr Shamlaye indicated.
As for STB’s strategy to market Seychelles as a destination, Mrs Francis acknowledges that Seychelles faces fierce and aggressive competition from similar island countries such as the Maldives, which are also trying to revive their tourism industry.
“STB is consistently looking at how things are evolving in the world and observing the trends. Our main markets, especially those in Europe, are making progress to contain the spread of the virus. Infection rates have dropped in markets such as France and Germany although not so much in the UK,” Mrs Francis said.
“If everything keeps evolving in that direction, and we do not experience a second wave, I believe that things will pick up for the tourism industry by September,” she added.
STB has driven a digital campaign marketing Seychelles across the world to retain the interests of potential visitors and is working on another campaign that will put the spotlight on several visitors who were stuck in the Seychelles paradise during the pandemic.