(CNN) — Simply over a 12 months in the past, the prospect of the Seychelles experiencing a dramatic drop in vacationers appeared close to inconceivable.
Revered for its lovely seashores and jungle landscapes, the Indian Ocean archipelago was using excessive as one of many world’s most alluring locations, and its recognition was solely rising.
Arrivals numbers had been up 4%, and tourism officers had been bracing themselves for what appeared destined to be one other vastly profitable 12 months.
However in fact, the Covid-19 pandemic put paid to virtually each plan or prediction made for 2020 and the world as we knew it has modified irreversibly.
Like so many locations which might be extremely reliant on income from worldwide guests, the Seychelles, which is located 1,600 kilometers off the coast of Tanzania, was dealt an enormous blow by coronavirus.
In line with the Seychelles Tourism Board, vacationer arrivals had been down by 70% final 12 months and the sector’s 2020 revenues dropped by round $368 million.
“The country had almost ground to a halt in terms of tourism activities,” Sylvestre Radegonde, minister of international affairs and tourism for the Seychelles, tells CNN Journey.
“And as our economy revolves a lot around tourism, it means that other activities also slowed down.
“The whole lot from fishing, to farming, arts and crafts, eating places and bars. So we began the 12 months in a very unhealthy state.”
However, officials have pulled out all the stops to ensure that travelers can return quickly and, more importantly, safely.
From Thursday (March 25,) the Seychelles is lifting restrictions for all visitors, other than those traveling from South Africa.
Although incoming arrivals are required to present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to their departure, travelers are no longer subject to any quarantine requirements or movement restrictions during their visit.
“Over 300 passengers flew on this morning, which is the largest quantity we have seen in a day for an extended, very long time,” Radegonde said just hours after restrictions were lifted.
“To date, our weekly figures have been round 200, so getting a aircraft filled with passengers is nice.”
Another 100 or so travelers were due to fly in later Thursday, and the nation is expecting hundreds more over the coming days.
‘Aggressive’ reopening strategy
The Seychelles will open its borders to worldwide guests, excluding vacationers from South Africa, from March 25.
The transfer comes in the direction of the tip of an “aggressive” vaccination rollout scheme which aims to fully vaccinate at least 70% of the Seychelles’ estimated 98,000 population.
Officials put the plan into motion after receiving a donation of approximately 50,000 vaccine doses from the United Arab Emirates government.
“Over 90% of our inhabitants has acquired the primary dose of the vaccine and over 45% have already had the second dose,” explains Radegonde.
“We hope to have reached our goal within the subsequent few weeks, or actually inside the course of April.”
But the Seychelles tourism team are encouraged by the number of bookings received so far and believe that now is the right time to invite travelers back.
“We’re snug that we have achieved the immunity that we deserve,” says Radegonde. “We have educated the institutions. Now we have the amenities in place.
“The health facilities are there and the measures we have implemented are working. We are comfortable that we’ve achieved the immunity that we deserve. So we’re comfortable to reopen.”
In fact, reopening whereas a lot of the world continues to be grappling with the virus will not be with out its challenges.
When the Maldives reopened unconditionally in July 2020, it turned an much more engaging choice for vacationers, significantly as rival locations like Tahiti, Bali and Phuket remained closed to worldwide vacationers.
Nevertheless, officers had been pressured to tighten up restrictions once more a couple of months later, requiring all vacationers to indicate proof of a adverse Covid-19 take a look at upon arrival within the Maldives from September.
Path to restoration
The favored vacation spot’s revenues from tourism decreased by 62% in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Though permitting worldwide vacationers to enter no matter their vaccination standing is a serious step in the best route, the present ban on journey within the UK, one of many Seychelles greatest European markets, continues to be a hurdle.
“Unfortunately there are still restrictions in quite a few of our traditional source markets and the citizens cannot travel,” says Sherin Francis, chief govt officer of the Seychelles Tourism Board.
In line with Francis, lots of the vacationers arriving within the Seychelles now are from locations akin to Russia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, India, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
“These are not markets we would usually depend on for tourism arrivals, but we’ve realized that no market is insignificant.”
As is the case all through many of the world, guests are required to put on face masks, keep social distancing guidelines and sanitize their fingers frequently.
Nevertheless, Francis stresses that the expertise of holidaying within the Seychelles stays unparalleled no matter any restrictions.
“There are very few destinations that are currently open to tourism with simple straightforward entry measures,” she says.
Vacationers to the Seychelles are now not topic to any quarantine necessities or motion restrictions.
“And just like our slogan says, we really are ‘another world. I don’t think there’s another destination that can provide this kind of experience.
“The character, the sluggish tempo of life, the inexperienced lush vegetation, the attractive seashores. Heat temperatures all 12 months spherical.
“All of this together truly makes the Seychelles a magical place to be, especially during a time when people are looking for outdoor activities, for nature and for fresh air.”
About 535 lodge institutions within the Seychelles have acquired the suitable coaching and are licensed to acquired worldwide vacationers at this time limit.
Whereas getting its tourism business again on monitor is a big precedence for the nation, retaining each guests and residents secure stays of paramount concern.
“Safety has always been a very strong USP for us,” says Francis.
Because of this, the brand new measures are to be reviewed constantly to make sure that “the health and safety of the visitors and the local population are not compromised.”
“Our health officials have been involved in everything that we’ve done,” provides Radegonde. “We wouldn’t have made the decisions that we’ve made without their blessing.
“We’re snug that the measures we have put in place are tight sufficient. In fact it is a fluid scenario, no person is aware of precisely the place Covid goes.
“You hear of different variants every day. So if there are changes, we will adapt our protocol accordingly. It’s never going to be 100% fool proof. People are still going to be infected, there’s no doubt about that.
“However by way of the measures that we have put in place, we’re assured that, not solely will we be defending our inhabitants, but in addition our guests.”