Seychelles will reopen to tourists from all over the world – with the exception of South Africa – on March 25, a top official said Monday.
Visitors coming to the islands will only need a negative PCR test done within 72 hours prior to their arrival to the country. No quarantine will be needed and visitors will be free to enjoy their holidays in certified hotels.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism Sylvestre Radegonde told a press conference that visitors will however need to abide by health measures in place, which means that wearing masks, hand sanitising, and social and physical distancing are mandatory.
“We are hoping that this will give the economy the breathing space that the economy needs, the country needs. And we hope that this will follow by a series of economic activities around the tourism industry. There is demand across the world for holidays and Seychelles is being looked at as potential,” said Radegonde.
With regards to the South African market, the minister said the decision was taken as is important to protect the European market vital for the industry.
“The problem is the European market. We are already on a red list in England associated with flights to South Africa. So we are in discussions with the British authorities to better understand what their problem is and how to resolve this. Once resolved we will open to everyone including South Africa,” explained the minister.
The Principal Secretary for Tourism, Anne Lafortune, added that visitors have to book accommodation in the certified tourism establishments. Currently out of 700 licensed accommodations 535 are COVID-19 certified.
“Once establishments are certified, they have their SOPs that the establishments have developed and endorsed by health. They need to observe these SOPs, for instance if the visitor falls ill, know what to do, where to put them, because they still can become positive, so these remain, as long as SOPs are observed, there are no restrictions they can move about,” explained Lafortune.
The principal secretary added that visitors are free to move on all the islands and they are also free to go on yachts by themselves without crew as was the case before.
Sherin Francis from the Seychelles Tourism Board said that travellers are showing interest in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean.
“For instance there are markets like Germany, Israel and England and there has always been, throughout, markets where many people have researched vacations but due to travel conditions many people had not booked any travels, but with the announcement made today, in the coming week we will monitor how our potential visitors react to the announcement,” explained Francis.
According to Francis, airlines already operating to Seychelles are maintaining their flight schedules and may increase flights. The return of Aeroflot to bring in Russian tourists and chartered flights from Israel in addition to flights by Air Seychelles are also planned now.
A large number of visitors to the islands are brought in by cruise ship during the cruise season from October to April, but due to COVID-19, the country closed the cruise ship season. But Lafortune said that discussions are underway to see whether this will be opened this year.
The minister took the opportunity to also appeal to people working directly in the tourism industry who have not taken their vaccination to do so as to protect fellow Seychellois but the visitors they serve as well.