Seychelles and COVID-19: 2,300 bookings worth $ 3.8 million cancelled in island nation due to virus, survey finds
Loustau-Lalanne said that since Seychelles closed its borders to European visitors, we have seen that visitor arrival has dropped drastically. (Gerard Larose)
(Seychelles News Agency) - A three-day survey carried out in Seychelles shows that at least 2,367 bookings worth $3.8 million were cancelled between February 25 and March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said the finance minister.
Overall, the Finance Ministry is projecting a 64 percent drop in tourist arrivals in 2020.
The 72 establishments that took part in the survey by the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) also recorded 215 booking postponements. The establishments represent 866 rooms in total and the occupancy rate for the rooms are at 19 percent.
"Since Seychelles closed its borders to European visitors, we have seen that visitor arrival has dropped drastically, and we expect it to continue as other countries close their borders and airlines either reduce or suspend their services," said Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, the Minister of Finance, Trade and Economic Planning.
Loustau-Lalanne was answering a private notice question of the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Wavel Ramkalawan, on Tuesday.
For the second quarter of 2020, STB is working on a plan to encourage the local tourism industry to give vacation opportunities to Seychellois.
"It is important to note that at this point, this plan will not be implemented immediately as there are public health restrictions in place on the movement of the public, and depending on how things go this might become another source of income for the tourism industry," he said.
On the general impact that the pandemic will have on the economy, Loustau-Lalanne said that in collaboration with their partners Seychelles has already started working on a revised economic plan.
"The worst-case scenario shows that the economic growth as per Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2020 will reach negative 10.8 percent, as compared to a growth of 3.5 percent as projected for the budget. In this new budget we expect a deficit instead of a surplus in the premium balance of 2.5 percent that was projected for the 2020 budget in October last year," said the minister.
He added that the immediate impact is of course on the tourism industry, which is Seychelles' first economic pillar.
"Compared to a growth of 5 percent projected, we are predicting that growth within this industry will go down by 50 percent. We are projecting a 64 percent decrease in the number of visitors," he continued.
Loustau-Lalanne outlined that the main areas affected within this industry are the accommodation and food service sectors, having a rippling effect on the administrative and support services, wholesale, retail and transport sectors.
"However, we expect other sectors to have activities that will support economic growth. This is mostly in the information and telecommunication sector, health, fisheries and agriculture. Growth in other sectors, especially in finance and insurance, remain uncertain," said Loustau-Lalanne.
Meanwhile, Ramkalawan once more voiced out that a two-week lockdown is necessary for the country to help fight the spread of COVID-19.
He said a lockdown would provide the department of health and other authorities the opportunity to properly assess the situation and ensure that measures such as social distancing become more effective.
The Leader of Government Business, Charles De Commarmond, congratulated the team working on the ground to fight the virus in Seychelles, pointing out that "there has been a stabilisation in the number of cases which shows that we are doing well."
At the moment there are seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Six are stable with one in critical but stable condition. A total of 129 people are in quarantine in different locations – Perseverance, Maison de Football, Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay hotel and at home.
Loustau-Lalanne said that eventually all those under quarantine will be transferred to Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay, "as it will be easier to manage one quarantine location."