COVID-19: Re-opening of Seychelles to commercial flights | 15 July 2020
President Faure chairs first review meeting
A first review meeting in preparation to re-open Seychelles to commercial flights on August 1 was held yesterday, bringing together stakeholders across all sectors in government and the private sector.
The high level committee for the integrated management system for the re-opening of Seychelles to commercial flights is chaired by President Danny Faure.
The half-day meeting, which was held at the Seychelles Trading Company (STC) yesterday morning, was basically to measure the level of preparedness against the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) that Seychelles as a country has reached before the re-opening of our country to the outside world in the wake of the pandemic.
The various measures being put in place before allowing the re-opening of our boarders to commercial flights include standard operations procedures in all sectors across the country alongside the necessity to educate, train and prepare our people so that they understand the need for visitors to come back to our shores.
The stakeholders’ representatives at the meeting included education, health, Citizens Engagement Platform of Seychelles (Ceps), Seychelles Interfaith Council (Sifco), Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), Seychelles Hotel and Tourism Association (SHTA) among other governmental and private organisations. They reported to the committee on their level of preparedness and how far they have reached in implementing the sets of measures given, including staff training that will allow the country to welcome outside visitors.
Following the meeting, Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine Minister Didier Dogley who also chairs the National Framework for the re-opening of Seychelles (a smaller task force that works on the modality and measures), said some progress has been achieved, especially at government level in preparing the country to welcome visitors but a lot more needs to be done. He said a number of organisations have reached between 60% and 100% preparedness to welcome outside visitors while others are lagging behind.
As example, he claimed that out of the 700 tourism establishments, only 41 from 200 that have applied to welcome foreign visitors have been certified as ready to welcome them. He also claimed that in schools, the majority have not been certified as ready in the country’s preparedness plan and that more work has to be done to raise their level of preparedness. He said that the churches are ready in terms of ordinary sermons but face the challenge of social distancing during funeral services which at the moment are not being respected. He added that a way forward has to be found to remedy the situation.
“Definitely, we will have a second evaluation review on July 21 and we hope that by then everybody would have reached at least a certain level so that we can be confident and comfortable with the August 1 re-opening of Seychelles to commercial flights and foreign visitors. If not, the government will have to re-assess its position as to whether or not to re-open the country to commercial flights,” said Minister Dogley, noting that hygiene is one of the most important aspects of the preparedness to welcome visitors.
Minister Dogley also noted that we, the Seychellois people, need to understand that re-opening our country to foreign visitors does not mean only the tourism establishments which have to be ready, but the whole country.
“Everybody needs to be prepared because visitors will not only stay in their hotels. They will go through the airport and might decide to take a taxi, rent a car and might take a trip to Praslin or La Digue and you might meet them on the road or on the beach and so everybody must be prepared, particularly those people who work in companies and establishments where tourists will be present,” he added.
He highlighted the need for other people working in other types of businesses unrelated to tourism, to prepare themselves to ensure they are not infected with the virus in spite of measures being put in place to stop the virus from entering the country.
“So at the level of the country, be it in schools, businesses and everywhere, everybody must take the necessary precautions and must be vigilant to make sure that they protect themselves and their families and everybody around them,” Minister Dogley said, noting that we should not treat visitors as being in the country only to spread the virus.
Minister Dogley explained that apart from the economic side, the main reason why it was decided to re-open Seychelles to commercial flights as early as August in the wake of the pandemic, is for the country to send a signal of confidence to airlines and tour operators that are selling our country that we are committed and ready to welcoming back visitors or else they will neglect our country and send the same tourists who were destined to come to Seychelles, to other places. He noted that in light of competition with other destinations, by then it will take time to regain the confidence of those airlines and tour operators to sell Seychelles as a tourist destination.
SHTA chairman Sybille Cardon claimed that through a survey, the low level of certified tourism establishments in relation to preparedness to welcome foreign visitors was because some of them are postponing the re-opening of their doors for later during the year or by next year. This is because they believe the incoming tourists will not sustain the cost of operation, among other reasons.
As for SCCI chairman Oliver Bastienne, he said the private sector is onboard and is engaging fully to get the country to re-open its borders so as to slowly get our economy back on its feet.