The reopening of Seychelles’ international airport will make no immediate difference in tourism as the island nation’s main markets are still under no-travel orders because of COVID-19, the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association said recently.
Last week, President Danny Faure announced that the airport will reopen for commercial flights in June. Sybille Cardon, the chairperson of the tourism association, told SNA that the organisation does not expect the tourism industry to pick up anytime soon.
‘For our business, the announcement will change nothing. Because in Europe, for instance, people cannot travel. Our European clients will not come to Seychelles and they will remain in their countries as travelling is not safe. For us we think that it will be next year that things will move,” said Cardon.
Germany, Italy, France, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Austria were the top markets for Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean- in 2019. These countries are also amongst the worst affected by COVID-19.
Cardon said that one good thing is once commercial flights start coming in, foreign workers whose contracts have expired and whose Gainful Occupation Permit cannot be renewed can go back home.
Micheal Thomas, who offers tours to German-speaking visitors, said that while he understands that visitors will not be back anytime soon, it is too early to open the border.
“How will we deal with a situation whereby someone comes in with the virus and has not developed the symptoms? And if they show symptoms, of course, we will have to isolate them through quarantine system. Are we well equipped to provide enough ventilators to 20 or more victims?” said Thomas, who shared that his business is going through desperate times.
“Yes we need to get our economy back on track but we cannot open the gate that soon. This is our only and most effective protection for our country right now. We can open on the inside but keep the border closed for at least another month or two,” said Thomas.
A statement from the chief executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) said it is too early to say how and when visitors will come back to our shores.
“The world has been affected in an unprecedented manner by the pandemic and at this moment it will be premature to predict new travel trends considering many countries remain on lockdown, people around the world are in fear of travelling and air transport supply is still low,” said Sherin Francis.
Francis added: “Opening of the airport is a first necessary step but there will require a lot of other conditions in place before leisure travel goes back to a normal level.”
The Public Health Commissioner, Jude Gedeon, told a news conference this week that control measures at the airport will be reinforced and travel advisories will be issued on which countries people can travel to and from when the airport reopens for commercial flights on June 1.
The airport’s reopening “does not mean the airport will be opened for anyone who wants to fly in or out,” said Gedeon, adding that he doesn’t expect tourism to immediately resume.