How are businesses faring with the new normal? |04 June 2020
Several categories of businesses were as of Monday allowed to re-open their doors on condition that they meet certain requirements and guidelines established by the department of health, in line with the Public Health Act, with the aim of preventing new cases and to mitigate community transmission if a new case is detected, in the event that the country is faced with a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For some categories of businesses, restrictions in place have severely impacted their operations while others felt some relief as the nationwide prohibition on movement order was lifted on May 4, and business was allowed to resume, albeit not as normal, but rather with adjustments and measures in adherence with the three pillars of COVID-19 prevention – heightened vigilance, social distancing and improved hygiene.
In a bid to uncover how local businesses are faring and adjusting to the economic contraction and devaluation brought on by the pandemic, Seychelles NATION yesterday visited numerous businesses in hotspots Victoria and Beau Vallon and spoke with the owners and managers of such businesses about how they are responding in a time when a crisis has become the new normal.
- X-trim gym
It has been more than two months since gyms have shut their doors amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As they were given the go ahead as of Monday by the government, there has been much conversation about the future of fitness studios, and how the way we exercise might change.
Gyms are required to take social distancing measures into account, putting space between machines and people working out, and a cap on maximum capacity inside changing rooms.
X-trim gym, located at Orion mall, will now have a new layout and a list of safety precautions that its members will now have to take.
“Since the outbreak of the coronavirus we have taken several measures to assure the safety of our members as well as our staff,” said Gilles Pinchon, owner of the gym
Mr Pinchon explained to Seychelles NATION that all gym equipment have been placed 1 metre apart from each other and gym members are required to sanitise their equipment after each use.
“We have placed sanitisers and paper towels at various parts in the gym in order to facilitate and encourage good hygiene, on top of that our cleaners will be cleaning the room more frequently,” said the owner.
He also noted that gym goers need to keep a good distance with each other even though they come in groups.
“To maintain social distancing throughout workout areas, the gym has unplugged some cardio machines like treadmills. This helps gym goers keep their distance and due to the size of X-trim, we have also done this for other equipment, like strength machines and weights,” he added.
One major change that X-trim will be making to their gym aesthetic will be adding glass separations between its equipment to maintain social distancing.
“As an owner of a gym, I have considered all angles to ensure we can keep everyone safe,” says Pinchon. “The benefit for us is we can tightly control who is coming in and out, what equipment is being used and cleaned thoroughly, while also ensuring everyone gets their fair share of class choices and times.
Shutting down its sauna is another precautionary measure that Pinchon has taken, noting that it is a closed space with little airflow so it will be complicated.
Regarding its exercise classes, the gym has also placed designated areas for each participant, with lines of tape on the ground to maintain distance throughout the workout.
Pinchon noted that it will take a few days for people to get into the groove but eventually they will get use to the new changes.
Bars and Restaurants
Boat House Restaurant, Beau Vallon
The Boat House Restaurant, located right across the road from the ever-popular Beau Vallon beach, has always been a favourite among visitors offering the best of Creole cuisine through a daily buffet, designed to give a true authentic culinary taste of the Seychelles islands.
The iconic restaurant has over the years maintained its popularity and amassed an impressive number of reviews on renowned travel website Trip Advisor with the majority of travellers rating both the food and service at the esteemed establishment as excellent and very good. Prior to the international public health crisis, a simple drive by the ideally located restaurant was evidence of its successes as the much-loved restaurant was always bustling with people and animated by the sounds of chatter and laughter.
“Since the gradual lifting of restrictions on May 4, the Boat House has resumed business, offering take-away services for it’s à la carte menu and rearranging the restaurant floor so as to maintain social distancing when restrictions on restaurants and bars were lifted,” manager Nicole Mancienne explained.
“We have seen a massive drop in business and since the pandemic have had to refocus and cater to the new normal. The local market is really strong however, so we are focusing on bringing in the locals through special deals and reduced pricing,” Miss Mancienne said.
In a bid to attract local clientele, the iconic restaurant and bar has also modified its menu, and for the moment struck the extravagant Creole buffet off. For the present moment, it is no longer serving breakfast and adjusted its operating hours to accommodate the local clientele, who have over the past couple of weekends flocked to the bar, for what Miss Mancienne referred to as “chill sessions”, leading management to take the decision to add to its menu bar snacks and favourites.
Despite the decline, Miss Mancienne is hopeful that the new normal can present a good business opportunity provided business owners and leaders are capable to take decisions to innovate and adapt to the often dynamic and volatile business market. In the case of the Boat House, management has been quick to take important decisions not only to redirect its focus towards the local market, but also to meet the demands of the market, and promise exciting things in the pipeline if all goes as planned.
Passion Service - Boat excursions and beach bed hire
Just a stone’s throw away from the Boat House restaurant, the Golden Mile, a famous location for some of the islands’ most major events, is almost silent with barely any traffic circulation and leisure-hunters except for those accessing the food truck in the car park.
Ricky Jules Sultan, better known as Ras Ricky, runs one of the many kiosks found along the mile, from which he offers boat excursions and beach bed hire for the hundreds of visitors who used to grace the shores in search of tans, sea adventures and to interact with locals.
Even with barely anyone moving around, Ricky and his team have been faithfully putting out beach beds as usual, offering them to locals at a reduced price.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, so I have seven umbrellas and fourteen chairs, and all of them would be rented out. I need to target the domestic economy and go into business with my own people, who also like to access these services and come down to the beach and spend the day like visitors do,” he noted.
While it has been fairly easy to attract locals to rent out the beach beds and body boards which he also offers, it is harder to attract them for excursions and boat charters, although Ricky has a pool of returning clients he can in some ways depend on.
Passion Service has in its fleet eight boats, all of which are tied up at the moment, and incurring costs, including maintenance costs, as well as salary payments for others employed in the business among others.
On the upside, Ricky, a renowned artist, has been making use of the free time on his hands to record another album and new material.
“I think business might start to pick up around October. The gradual lifting of restrictions on the borders and the way in which the department of health is managing the travel situation gives some hope that things will eventually settle and business will resume,” Ricky said.
He added that he hopes that concerned authorities are more open to accommodating new business ideas such as licensing beach bed hire to further encourage entrepreneurship and in turn, the economy can benefit from tax revenues.
The accompanying photos taken by our photographer Thomas Meriton show the efforts some businesses have gone through to abide by health guidelines and requirements in this ‘new normal’ period.