Tourism minister addresses partners as Seychelles re-opens borders to visitors worldwide |25 March 2021
‘We must offer value for money’
As Seychelles re-opens its doors to visitors from all over the world today, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism Sylvestre Radegonde has reinforced the importance of reclaiming back the tourism industry.
According to the minister this would be through placing more emphasis on delivering quality service to visitors, so as to give Seychelles a competitive advantage over competitors, and once again revitalise this vital industry.
Speaking at the Seychelles Tourism Board’s strategic marketing meeting held virtually yesterday, Minister Radegonde noted the urgency in attracting visitors back to Seychelles’ shores, and the need to differentiate the destination from competitors, towards long-term gains.
The minister’s address reads:
“To say that our tourism industry has been in a freefall would be an understatement. Our arrival figures are down by 90 percent, the corresponding decline in earnings by government. While we as a government have taken all the necessary measures to contain the pandemic in our country, we could not allow the situation to deteriorate further. To do nothing would be to commit economic suicide. That is why government took the decision to introduce a new policy, facilitating the arrival of visitors to Seychelles, and which takes effect on March 25 (today).
“It is a risk that we must take, but one that is calculated, courageous and above all, necessary. The decision was not taken in isolation, but in consultation with all stakeholders in the industry, underpinned by the success of our national vaccination campaign. As we meet, 90 percent of our targeted population have already taken the first dose of the vaccine, and over 45 percent have had both doses. This is moving us closer to our target of reaching herd immunity by the end of this month. In itself, this is an admirable record, which no country is yet close to achieving.
“As of tomorrow (today), we shall be receiving more visitors and more flights. Visitors to Seychelles will henceforth only be required to provide a negative PCR test, taken less than 72-hours prior to travel. In addition, they will now be able to book accommodation in any of the 535 certified tourism establishments, vetted and sanctioned by the department of tourism, and health, and not have to quarantine in a designated hotel, as is the case now.
“For the time being though, exceptions are being made for visitors from South Africa. They are not permitted to enter Seychelles, while we continue to evaluate the impact of the new variant or variants of the Covid-19 and the response of their authorities. We hope that this will change in the near future.
“I think we all agree that these measures are vital to our survival as a nation. It constitutes a major step in claiming back our tourism industry. The response to our policy change has been more than encouraging. Already, airlines such as Turkish Airlines, Kenya Airways, or even Aeroflot returning to Seychelles after 17 years, have communicated their intent to resume operations in the coming weeks, while others like Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways are increasing their flights in frequency and capacity, respectively.
“Our national airline Air Seychelles will also be resuming flights to Mumbai and Tel Aviv, respectively. Also, from all indications that I have, our local DMCs are practically inundated with reservations and foreign bookings. The same applies to our tourism establishments. All this works well for our country. We must now gear up for the influx of arrivals. We must do so, bearing in mind the health and safety protocols in place. We must not relax our guards and must remain vigilant.
Equally, and as important, we must never forget that we are not the unique destination that we claim to be. Competition is fierce and unrelenting. Many other destinations, including our own region, Maldives in particular, with over 500,000 visitors in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, in the Caribbean, the Pacific, in Africa and in Europe itself as examples, are fighting for tourists with aggressive marketing campaigns.
“The new measures that will take effect as of tomorrow (today) are but the start of a long process of the rehabilitation of our tourism industry. We must offer value for money. The smile on our face as we welcome visitors to our establishments must not be artificial, but from the heart. We must ensure that the accommodation we offer is up to standard, and even superior to what is accepted. The same applies for services. Also, we should focus more on offering greater degree of authentic and community-based tourism experiences, reflective of our brand. And as we look ahead, we must be equally determined to pay attention to and further refine our industry’s business model, to ensure that sustainability remains the bottom line of that industry. We must do all this and more to reclaim our tourism industry, without compromising on the health and safety of our people.”
In concluding, the minister thanked all partners for their cooperation and extending their support to the department, vowing his own commitment towards the sector and partners of STB.
Compiled by Laura Pillay