STARK REALITY EMERGES ON SEYCHELLES AS TOURISM MAY NOT RESUME TILL LATE 2020
(Posted 19th May 2020)
Seychelles’ 250th anniversary year – commemorating when the islands were first permanently settled – was supposed to be a year of celebrations and events right up to August when the year was to come to a grand finale. The onslaught of #COVID19 though nixed all those plans, at least as far as foreign tourists are concerned, in the process also wiping out a decade long record of ever rising arrivals.
Among the high profile events not taking place this year on the Seychelles are very likely the Festival Kreol, The Ocean Festival, the first ever Nature Trail Competition, the National Day Parade and the national show, but also the dedicated ethnic festivals which took place every year to celebrate the archipelago’s ties with India, Africa and China.
Officials in Victoria have now for the first time admitted that they do not know when tourism – other than domestic travel – will resume in earnest, notwithstanding that the Seychelles, after an initial 11 cases, has now been cleared of any CoronaVirus infections.
The Seychelles will until the end of 2021 entirely depend on arrivals by air as cruise ship calls have already been banned by the government. However, key airlines have not as yet released any information when they will return to Mahe. This is due in good part to the uncertainty over the lifting of passenger flight bans, even when the airport will officially open again on the 01st of June after Public Health Commissioner Jude Gedeon had stated that the reopening of the airport: ‘does not mean the airport will be opened for anyone who wants to fly in or out‘ causing some level of confusion among the archipelago’s tourism stakeholders.
He was also quoted to then have added: ‘We are thinking that with the current situation, we will not see tourism relaunched in a fast manner in June. We are looking at maybe July or August. This is why the opening of commercial operations of the airport does not necessarily mean there will be a lot of movement of people. Control measures that were put in place will be reinforced‘ again leaving tourism stakeholders agasp.
This has also thrown plans by Air Seychelles to resume passenger operations into a void, leaving the airline little choice but to concentrate on cargo flights, for which the main cabin of their two Airbus A320Neo fleet has been modified.
Ms. Cheryl Barra, Head of Corporate Affairs, suggested that a resumption of passenger flights for now will be postponed until further notice while adding: ‘Due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 and as the airport is closed, we will adjust our schedule once we have further clarity on the situation in both Seychelles and the outbound destinations where we operate‘.
Public Health Commissioner Jude Gedeon then again commented: ‘We could say let’s wait until the situation improves but when will the situation improve? The monster is here to stay and we need to learn to live with it and master it‘ avoiding any mention of dates however.
Commented a regular ATCNews reader from Mahe: ‘We can for all intent and purpose write off the year 2020. Even should travel to the islands resume later this year, it will be a trickle compared to our past. We honestly do not know how resorts and Seychelles’ owned hospitality businesses shall survive. Many upmarket restaurants were frequented by tourists, local bed and Breakfast or self catering facilities will be without guests and small guest houses too are empty and will remain so until foreign tourists return. But given the nature of the outbreak, and that our main source countries like Germany, France, Italy, the Gulf states and even China were hard hit, one cannot foresee or predict right now what pattern of travel will emerge after their lockdown periods end. Besides, we still do not know if persons supposedly cured of Corona could not perhaps still infect others so extreme caution will be required. We had only 11 cases in the Seychelles and we saw that even that low number caused a complete shutdown. We cannot risk a second time’.