Revival of tourism industry? | 09 September 2020
$31m in foreign exchange earnings from 2006 visitors
By Laura Pillay
A total of 2006 visitors, excluding residents and Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP) holders, have entered the country since the reopening of the Seychelles International Airport to commercial flights on August 1, bringing with them around US $31 million in much-needed foreign exchange.
The figures were yesterday disclosed by Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine Didier Dogley who has expressed satisfaction at the authorities’ decision, strategy and health and safety measures in place, to once again welcome visitors to Seychelles on condition that they satisfy certain strict conditions aimed at limiting and preventing the propagation of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Minister Dogley, also the chairperson of the task force established for the National framework for integrated management for the re-opening of Seychelles, said during yesterday’s review with concerned parties and stakeholders that the foreign exchange generated from the small handful of visitors serves to reassure the government and authorities that the re-opening strategy is proving effective, and contributing to the domestic economy desperately lacking foreign exchange inflows.
“This goes to show that the decision to open up borders to commercial passenger flights was a good decision as the foreign exchange can help see us through the months to come. On the other hand, aside from the Covid case recorded from the North of Mahé, in general it indicates that the procedures in place, drafted together with the department of health are working well enough. We chose to allow visitors from countries considered low risk and to have a testing requirement, and this goes to show that such decisions work, if out of 2006 visitors, we have only one case,” Minister Dogley said.
Currently, there is only one active coronavirus case in the country, a male visitor of Egyptian origin, who on Saturday tested positive for the virus. He is currently at the Perseverance Isolation and Treatment facility.
In addition to reviewing the re-opening strategy thus far, the committee addressed the way forward and the objective of the task force henceforth. As visitors have been steadily coming in over the past six weeks without any major hiccups, the primary focus is now on sustaining momentum and restoring confidence to European actors and operators, to gradually attract more tourists.
In line with the task force’s evolved objective, six European countries, namely France, the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, Austria and Switzerland, key markets for Seychelles, have now been granted ‘special status’. Visitors from these countries will be permitted to enter Seychelles, irrespective of infection rates in their respective countries, on account that they meet basic testing requirements – within 48 hours prior to their journey to Seychelles and prior to their departure from Seychelles, with an additional PCR test for these visitors after their fourth-day in the quasi-quarantine tourism establishments to which they will be confined.
The decision follows a disappointing turn of events three weeks ago when France was removed from the list of low-risk countries from which inbound travel is permitted, resulting in cancellations for September, October and November.
Despite government’s commitment to subsidise half of the testing costs, the requirement for a third PCR test at the cost of R5000 per test (total exclusive of subsidy) is a perturbation to the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association (SHTA) who is of the view that the provision may be a deterrent to visitors, who are already subject to higher than usual travel expenses during the pandemic.
The policy applicable to visitors from special status countries is being finalised and ‘transit hotels’ at which the visitors will lodge are also being established. At least 71 establishments responded to the call, although there are conditions to be met including that establishments must not be located in densely populated areas, and must satisfy minimum security requirements.
A total of 418 establishments are certified to accommodate visitors, representing 4732 rooms of 6000 rooms in total. Establishments who are yet to be certified are advised to consult the ministry for information regarding standard operating procedures, and to benefit from training and development opportunities.
The meeting was chaired by President Danny Faure.