Government sets out guidelines to kick-start tourism recovery | 28 May 2020
With commercial flights resuming operations on Monday next week, the government has set out guidelines and strict measures to welcome back tourists and give a well-needed boost to the floundering tourism industry.
The gradual recovery of the tourism industry will be undertaken in two phases, Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine Didier Dogley informed in a press conference yesterday.
The first phase, between June and July, will act as a trial period to assess the effectiveness of the guidelines being implemented, and during which maximum control will be imposed on visitors coming in.
High-end clients have been identified as the desired customer base during this period since only visitors travelling on private jets and chartered flights, and who will be heading off directly to remote island resorts, will be allowed in.
These visitors will be vacationing in a quasi-quarantine bubble since they will not be allowed off these islands in order to minimise the risks of potentially spreading coronavirus. The resort in question would be made liable if its clients do not adhere to this measure.
“We are expecting a small number of visitors coming in during this first phase because they have to be able to charter a flight. The resort will function much like a quarantine facility,” Minister Dogley highlighted.
The second phase of the recovery “will be from July onwards and will build up gradually”.
“We will continue to see chartered flights, private planes and we will see some commercial flights. Again, in this second phase, we do not expect to record the monthly 30,000 visitors arrivals we saw at the start of the year,” Minister Dogley said.
While many have expressed doubts over the reopening of the airport, Minister Dogley noted that the country must find a way to revive its tourism industry, which is the main driver of the economy and contributes around 26% of our gross domestic product (GDP), especially since it remains uncertain when COVID-19 would be put under control.
Nonetheless, visitors will not be allowed to traipse into the country like in the pre-coronavirus days.
It will be necessary for them to do a coronavirus test 48 hours before their flight to Seychelles and they must have a voucher at hand confirming the hotel they will reside at.
Further, visitors will incur a US $50 health fee charge to cover local costs for rapid testing, deployment of health officials to the airport as well as to offset the investments made to further boost health screenings at the airport.
The tourism department is also working on an app to track the movements of tourists in order to facilitate potential contact tracing exercises.
Principal secretary for tourism, Anne Lafortune, explained that a set of guidelines have been devised by her department, in collaboration with the health department, catering specifically to hotels and guesthouses, hire crafts, tour operators, travel agents, car rental companies, tour guides and commission agents.
“The guidelines clearly details what needs to be put in place before they can welcome guests into their establishments, and this includes social distancing, sanitation and hygiene and so on,” PS Lafortune said.
Tourism establishments that meet these stricter standards of operations will be certified and allowed to operate.
Additionally, they will have to enter into a signed agreement with the tourism department to demonstrate their commitment towards upholding these COVID-19 prevention measures.
On her part, the chief executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB), Sherin Francis, noted that Seychelles’ marketing will have to target countries which are recording low numbers of community transmissions.
Although Israel is being considered as one such country, especially since it has a direct route to Seychelles, Mrs Francis noted that there is nothing conclusive yet.
Other potential markets at the moment include Switzerland, Norway and Austria.
Guillaume Albert, executive board member of the Seychelles Hotel and Tourism Association (SHTA), stated that the association is pleased that there is a plan to restart the industry, even though it will be the four to five-star island resorts that will benefit in the first phase.
By Elsie Pointe