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Efforts being stepped up to revive tourism industry | 07 October 2020

Efforts being stepped up to revive tourism industry

The sixth review meeting in progress yesterday (Photos: Louis Toussaint)

Just over 3500 visitors have landed on Seychelles’ shores over the months of August and September, and efforts to attract yet more visitors and revive the country’s tourism industry amid the global Covid-19 pandemic are being stepped up.

Chairperson of the high-level task-force for the National Integrated Framework Didier Dogley said at the sixth review meeting yesterday that since the re-opening of the airport to commercial flights in August, the country has benefitted from 3563 visitors who have contributed foreign exchange towards the local economy, although it is imperative to continue rebuilding the economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism arrivals and earnings.

In a bid to have visitors flocking back to our shores, the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) is working with airlines to establish travel corridors to facilitate inbound travel from key markets such as Eastern Europe, Germany and others.

STB’s chief executive Sherin Francis in a presentation yesterday noted the importance of establishing corridors, on account that national carrier Air Seychelles is planning to fly to Mauritius and South Africa where infection rates have significantly reduced.

“STB is also working with airlines in the UAE due to the sharp increase in the number of cases, as it is one of the most important markets and it is imperative that Emirates continue to fly to Seychelles, without Emirates, we will find ourselves in a complicated situation,” she noted.

“In fact, now we have five airlines that will soon fly to Seychelles. Ethiopian, Emirates, Kenya Airways, Edelweiss and British Airways which are to start on October 10. This means soon, we will have two direct flights to Europe and this is an important development, as it means visitors do not have to go through hubs, minimising the risk of them getting the infection. STB is working with Condor as it had planned to start flights in December to see whether they can do chartered flights, from Germany to here and this will greatly improve our situation with regards to visitors,” chairperson Dogley noted.

As has been the case for previous review meets, the task force heard from relevant stakeholders including the department of Health and the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association (SHTA).

Health authorities provided an overview of the global and local situation with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting the worsening infection rates in key European markets, most specifically Spain, United Kingdom (UK) and France.

As for the seven countries granted ‘special status’, namely, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), France, United Kingdom (UK), Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland, three are now considered as ‘high-risk’ countries – UAE, France and UK.

Principal secretary for tourism, Anne Lafortune, explained that visitors from special status countries considered high-risk are still permitted to visit Seychelles, on condition that they, through the online inbound travel application on digital platform Travisory, provide PCR test results taken within 48-hours to departure, and that upon arrival they lodge at Category 2 establishments until the fifth day when they will be re-tested.

According to chairperson Dogley, over 50 establishments have been certified to accommodate Category 2 travellers and employees of such establishments have been trained and developed as to the standards and practices to maintain. An establishment may accommodate both Category 1 and Category 2 visitors.

The private sector, represented by SHTA’s Sybille Cardon, voiced out that ‘stay-safe hotels’ should also be established to cater for visitors who test positive for the Covid-19 virus, but who are asymptomatic, not displaying any symptoms.

Other issues addressed included, the health travel authorisation online application process, through which important data about visitors is being collected. Such system, which prior to the pandemic was not in place, allows for the collection of important information which could be beneficial to both policy-makers and the private sectors.

A new platform to facilitate contact-tracing for locals was also pitched by the National Information, Science and Technology Institute (Nisti), while the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Citizens Engagement Platform Seychelles (Ceps) presented their reports to the task-force as to the support they are offering in coordinating the reopening.

The SHTA is scheduled to launch an educational campaign as from October 16, entitled ‘Tourism Wi’ so as to sensitise the public about the importance of visitors to the economy.

Ms Cardon said there are too many misconceptions about the reopening of the airport.

 

Laura Pillay

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