(CNN) — Just over a yr in the past, the prospect of the Seychelles experiencing a dramatic drop in vacationers appeared close to inconceivable.
Revered for its stunning seashores and jungle landscapes, the Indian Ocean archipelago was driving 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.
But in fact, the Covid-19 pandemic put paid to nearly 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.
According to the Seychelles Tourism Board, vacationer arrivals had been down by 70% final yr 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 overseas affairs and tourism for the Seychelles, tells CNN Travel.
“And as our economy revolves a lot around tourism, it means that other activities also slowed down.
“Everything from fishing, to farming, arts and crafts, eating places and bars. So we began the yr in a very dangerous 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 most important quantity we have seen in a day for an extended, very long time,” Radegonde said just hours after restrictions were lifted.
“Up to now, our weekly figures have been round 200, so getting a airplane 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 top 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 definitely throughout 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 are snug that we have achieved the immunity that we deserve,” says Radegonde. “We’ve skilled the institutions. We have the services 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.”
Of course, 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 grew to become an much more enticing possibility for vacationers, significantly as rival locations like Tahiti, Bali and Phuket remained closed to worldwide vacationers.
However, officers had been compelled to tighten up restrictions once more just a few months later, requiring all vacationers to point out proof of a detrimental Covid-19 check upon arrival within the Maldives from September.
Path to restoration
The well-liked vacation spot’s revenues from tourism decreased by 62% in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although permitting worldwide vacationers to enter no matter their vaccination standing is a serious step in the precise path, the present ban on journey within the UK, one of many Seychelles largest 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.
According to Francis, most of the vacationers arriving within the Seychelles now are from locations corresponding 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 palms repeatedly.
However, 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.
Travelers to the Seychelles are 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 nature, the sluggish tempo of life, the inexperienced lush vegetation, the attractive seashores. Warm temperatures all yr 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 resort institutions within the Seychelles have acquired the suitable coaching and are licensed to acquired worldwide vacationers at this cut-off date.
While getting its tourism business again on observe is a big precedence for the nation, maintaining each guests and residents protected stays of paramount concern.
“Safety has always been a very strong USP for us,” says Francis.
As a end result, the brand new measures are to be reviewed repeatedly 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. Of course this can be a fluid scenario, no one 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.
“But 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.”