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Bilateral agreements signed to create a ‘more vibrant’ air services market in Seychelles

Victoria, Seychelles | October 28, 2015, Wednesday @ 14:00 in Business » TOURISM | By: Sharon Uranie and Hajira Amla | Views: 2364
Bilateral agreements signed to create a ‘more vibrant’ air services market in Seychelles

Air connectivity is of utmost important for Seychelles an island nation that relies heavily on tourism and imports. (Patrick Joubert, Seychelles News Agency)

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(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles has taken steps to reinforce its regional and international air connectivity by renewing existing bilateral air service agreements, forging new ones and establishing contact with new potential partner countries.

This follows discussions held by the island nation’s aviation experts with their counterparts from 16 countries from Asia, Europe, Africa, North America and the Middle East attending the eighth annual forum of member states of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO.

The meeting, which saw the participation of 94 member countries in total, took place in Antalya, Turkey from October 19 to 23, 2015.

This was an opportunity for the respective countries’ air transport and civil aviation authorities, airlines and other aviation experts to network and also negotiate air services agreements.

An air service agreement, or ASA, is an agreement which two nations sign to lay the regulatory framework for commercial air transport services between their territories.

According to a press statement issued by the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority, SCAA, on Tuesday, the island nation has renewed existing ASAs with Russia, Israel and Belgium.

New agreements were also successfully concluded with Denmark, Curacao, Portugal, Cote D’Ivoire and Bulgaria.

At this year’s ICAO forum, Seychelles has also begun to negotiate with other countries for ASAs such as Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Azerbaijan, the United States of America, Thailand, Ireland and Zambia.

“A lot of efforts were this year focused on discussing with European countries so as to rally a more liberalized access to our traditional tourism niche market. In doing so, we are hoping to unleash traffic growth, improve international and reinforce regional connectivity,” said SCAA’s Chief Executive, Gilbert Faure, in the statement.

“Discussions with Russia for example, are strategic in terms of facilitating our national airline operations to Moscow in the near future given the significant potential of Russian market as an emerging source market globally,” said the Seychelles Minister of Foreign Affairs and Transport, Joel Morgan.

“Seychelles also met with Turkish Airlines who reiterated their strong intentions to launch operations to Seychelles.” 

SCAA's Chief Executive signing agreements with Zambia (above) and Portugal at the Turkey meeting. (SCAA) Photo License: CC-BY

Seychelles, an Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 islands, relies heavily on tourism as the main pillar of the economy, and hence air connectivity is of utmost importance.

In 2014, a total of 232,667 visitors came to Seychelles. This year, according to the Seychelles National Bureau of Statistics, 223,581 visitors have already disembarked in the Indian Ocean island nation from January to October 25 which represents a 19 percent increase when compared to 2014 figures from the same period.

France remains the leading market with 30,456 visitors followed closely by Germany with 29,377 visitors. Italy, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and China are also among the main markets.

Seychelles also depends heavily on food imports, with up to 90 percent of consumer goods imported into the country by air and sea cargo.

According to the Seychelles National Statistics Bureau (NBS)’s publication, ‘Seychelles in Figures 2013’, in 2012, Seychelles exported some 6.8 billion Seychelles rupees ($522 million) worth of products, while its imports amounted to around 14.7 billion Seychelles rupees ($1.1 billion).

The national airline, Air Seychelles, which was established in 1977 and adopted its present name in September 1978, was until 2012 wholly owned by the Seychelles government.

UAE's Etihad Airways invested $45 million in Air Seychelles when it bought a 40 percent share in the airline in 2012, with the aim of turning the company around after several prior years of losses.

While the national carrier offers international flights to Abu Dhabi, Antananarivo, Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg, Mauritius, Mumbai and Paris, there are currently also nine other airlines offering regular flights to Seychelles.

The Seychelles transport minister, Joel Morgan, who is also the Chairman of Air Seychelles, believes that a larger air access network provides the opportunity to increase passenger numbers and cargo movements, thus offering more business opportunities for Seychellois people.

“A more liberalized air space has proven beneficial for Seychelles creating greater market access in terms of new routes, and greater frequencies which has permitted over 500,000 passenger movements, and more than 6,000 tonnes of cargo movement annually,” said Morgan in the SCAA statement.

“It is important that due to the country’s strategic location, we keep hailing our efforts to strengthen our bilateral relations to ensure we remain at the forefront of our economic and social development on the international scene.”

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Tags: Etihad Airways, Air Seychelles, Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority, Gilbert Faure, Joel Morgan, bilateral, Air Service Agreement, Turkey, Russia

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