COVID's heavy toll: Visitor arrivals to Seychelles down 70 percent year over year
The startling numbers show how deep the COVID-19 travel crisis has his the island nation's tourism industry. (Gerard Larose, Seychelles Tourism Board)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Visitor arrivals to Seychelles have dropped 70 percent this year compared to the same period in 2019, according to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) figures, startling numbers that show how deep the COVID-19 travel crisis has his the island nation's tourism industry.
Figures from NBS last Wednesday show that from January to November, 97,740 visitors disembarked in Seychelles compared to 324,252 for the same period in 2019.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, has been hard-hit by a global travel downturn, despite the fact the island nation has seen no deaths from the virus.
The chief executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB), Sherin Francis, told SNA that people are still "too scared to travel and this is translated in the low number of visitors arriving here. We are not doing okay, we are around 90 percent down from our usual arrivals."
She said with the downturn in travel globally, the tourism industry -- the top contributor to the Seychelles economy -- is still very much unpredictable.
"At STB we are struggling to put together a forecast as people are booking their flights at the last minute. Prior to COVID-19, Seychelles was a destination where tourists booked their holiday well in advance," added Francis.
A breakdown of visitor arrivals by region to date shows that the majority, 70,295, were from Europe followed by 16,350 from Asia.
Seychelles' traditional market is Europe and the majority of these source markets are now in the Category 2 as of November 16 in view of the acceleration of cases in these countries. Visitors from these countries can still enter the island nation but must follow a separate set of more rigorous measures compared to those in Category 1.
These source markets include Germany, France, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Italy and Austria and two new addition in the category 1 are South Africa and Israel, two destinations which Air Seychelles has direct flights.
"We are continuously shifting our marketing strategy every time a new country is added in this category, so Seychelles can become more visible," explained Francis.
Francis hopes that with the good news that a vaccine might be available anytime and winter descending on the northern hemisphere, the pattern might change.
"With the confinement in Europe especially, travelling for a holiday is not a luxury now, but rather a necessity. People want to be outdoor, among nature and certainly not in crowded places," she said.