Seychelles records 50,000th visitor since March 25 re-opening |13 July 2021
- Country on track to achieve tourism arrival targets for 2021
There is much to celebrate in the Seychelles islands this July. Not only is the country commemorating the 50th anniversary of the opening of its international airport welcoming its first commercial flight, which on July 4, 1971 launched the Indian Ocean archipelago’s tourism industry, but it also welcomed, on that same day in 2021, the 50,000th visitor since the bold decision to open the country up on March 25 to all visitors vaccinated or not.
The impact of the pandemic had been immediate and catastrophic for the tourism-dependent economy of the island nation which saw visitor arrivals plummet to a low of 22 visitors in April of last year compared to a bumper 37,103 in April 2019, traditionally the second highest month of the year for tourist arrivals.
Foreign exchange inflows (receipts/supply of foreign exchange converted into rupees, the majority of which is tourism earnings) of an average of USD3 million a day pre-pandemic fell to USD 1.25m per day in April 2020, plunging to a low of USD0.43m in mid-April 2020, the Central Bank of Seychelles has revealed.
For the ensuing 11 months, the period of May 2020 to March 24, 2021, the average was USD1.72m per day.
The ambitious vaccination programme of its citizens the tourism-dependent country embarked on from January 2021, catapulting it to the world’s attention as the world’s most vaccinated country, underpins Seychelles’ strategy to relaunch its primary economic activity and is already paying dividends.
While a far cry still from the 38,910 visitors of December 2019, the bumper 384,204 arrivals of that year and tourism earnings which in 2019 accounted for 76% of total inflows, figures from the Central Bank of Seychelles show that recovery, although fragile, is well under way.
Tourism earnings, reported by banks covering foreign exchange converted into domestic currency by tourism-related businesses, dropped to USD1.1m in June 2020. It stands this year in June at USD23m or 59% of the USD38.9m recorded in the same month in 2019.
As of March 25 to July 2, 2021, the foreign exchange inflows daily average is USD2.44m.
Redefining its customer landscape as its traditional markets got hit by succeeding waves of the pandemic and barriers such as lockdown measures, quarantine requirements and restrictions to travel, the country’s tourism and transport authorities and private sector operators have been looking to other source markets, opening up to new airlines and charters, and welcoming from March 25 onwards some 500 visitors on average per day.
Topping the leader board of visitor arrivals from January 1 to July 4 is Russia with 12,381 visitors, as Aeroflot, absent from the destination for 17 years, commenced twice weekly flights on April 2 before increasing it to three times a week. Emirates, the first airline back to Seychelles when the airport reopened, has boosted arrivals from the United Arab Emirates to number 2 (8,475) while accelerating connectivity to its widening network, and scheduled and special charter flights from Israel see the Middle Eastern nation making the number 3 spot (6881), normally held by European source markets.
Germany and France, (normally Nr 1 and 2), have dropped to 4th and 6th position while Ukraine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Poland and USA have made their appearance in the top 10 source markets list.
397,000 visitor nights have been recorded for the first two quarters of 2021 and the length of stay recorded is a healthy 9.1 days for the second quarter of the year, not too far reduced from that recorded prior to the pandemic, the latest tourism report from the National Bureau of Statistics shows.
Optimistic, based on the intelligence recorded that there is high demand for travel to Seychelles, the principal secretary for Tourism, Sherin Francis, anticipates an improvement in the second part of the year during the peak summer season.
“We are expecting better days ahead for the industry; the current booking trends are reflecting the forecasts we made at the beginning of the year. Records are showing that Seychelles could be receiving over 149,000 visitors by December 2021, which for the industry would be very good news. We are confident that, as vaccination progresses in various countries, consumer confidence will increase and this will influence our arrival numbers positively for the rest of the year,” PS Francis said.
Edelweiss from Switzerland has also resumed its flights, Condor and Air France probable return to the destination are slotted for October 2021 and as more regional and international airline partners confirm their interest in the destination, the destination’s tourism authorities’ confidence appears to be well founded.