A year in review: Seychelles' tourism recovers 90% since onset of COVID-19
The tourism department is looking at ending the year with an estimate of 330,000 visitors. (Gerard Larose)
By the end of 2022, Seychelles' tourism industry recovered by 90 percent since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, well ahead of the global average figure that stands at around 60 percent, said a top government official on Tuesday.
According to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics on December 11, a total of 311,108 visitors disembarked in Seychelles this year. For the same period in 2019, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this figure stood at 353,215 visitors.
The Principal Secretary for Tourism, Sherin Francis, told SNA that the tourism department is looking at ending the year with an estimate of 330,000 visitors, a figure that could have been higher had some global situations been more favourable.
2022 tourism industry challenges
"We need to take into account how we started the year. At the start of 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic was still in full swing. Despite the fact that there was the mass rollout of the vaccination campaign globally, we were still not sure how successful the vaccination campaign would be," said Francis.
"On February 24, a war started between Russia and Ukraine, where overnight, we lost our Ukraine market - that at the time was occupying the fourth place in terms of our tourism arrival - and a large portion of the Russian market - that was in the first place," she continued.
Coordination with different agencies, in terms of destination preparedness, was outlined as an area where improvement could have been made in 2022.
As an example, the principal secretary talked about the growing amount of tourists getting lost on trails stating "more timely interventions of our partners to manage certain situations" is needed.
Overcoming the hurdles
Despite the fact that Seychelles lost a huge chunk of the Russian market and that of Ukraine, the tourism department remained optimistic in the face of uncertainties.
Francis explained that when the island destination reopened its borders in March 2021, all necessary protocols to continue attracting tourists were put in place. This included working with establishments to ensure the right standard operating procedures (SOP) were in place to have them certified, having the right COVID-19 entry requirement in place at borders, and ensuring tourists could still enjoy the outdoors.
"As we lost the Ukraine market and part of the Russian one, certain COVID-19 travel requirements were being lifted on our traditional markets such as Germany, France, and England. This meant that the booking cancellations that we were having were being replaced by visitors from our traditional markets. This helped us in our recovery for the year. With this, we even went beyond our set targeted tourism arrival figure which was 258,000 for the year," said Francis.
|Visitors at the Tourism Festival event on La Digue in September. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY
At the moment, the top five markets are France, Germany, Russia, the UK and Northern Ireland, and Italy.
During the interview, it was outlined that a lot of groundwork has been carried out this year to launch different experiences for tourists, especially cultural tourism.
Late this year there was the launch of the first edition of cultural bazaars, the first of which was during the opening of the Tourism Festival on La Digue. Bazaar Domaine was launched at the Domaine Val de Pres, Au Cap. This is expected to be a cultural bazaar that will be carried out each month.
What to expect in 2023
"Next year, through a series of activities in different districts, there will be the launching of certain experiences. This is important as we are encouraging our visitors to spend more when in the country by engaging themselves in different activities. When we talk about product diversification, this can also be in the field of adventure tourism, gastronomy, and entertainment, especially nightlife entertainment," said Francis.
She said that there is a big space for product diversification that will help to increase the receipt per visitor as this is the ultimate goal of the tourism department.
"We need to take into account that recession is taking place in certain countries, especially in Europe, where the price of fuel is increasing, meaning that plane tickets are becoming more expensive. We should not forget about the adverse effects that the war continues to have, as well as the fact that most destinations have reopened their borders and have lifted COVID-19 restrictions," said Francis.
Despite the fact that a specific figure was not provided, Francis shared that for 2023, Seychelles is expecting to see a figure that might be similar to or slightly lower than this year.
As for the director general for Destination Marketing, Bernadette Willemin, she said "we are not only interested in the figures but also in looking at how to increase the receipt and product diversification is key. All individuals in Seychelles need to play their role to ensure that the client spends a great time in Seychelles and spends more. The future is all about this."
Talking about the effects of a new tax on tourism establishments to be introduced in 2023, Francis said that "more than ever this is when we need to put the emphasis on the value for money."