US-Seychelles 'open-skies' eyeing tourism and trade boost
The Seychelles Minister for Transport and Foreign Affairs signing the air transport agreement with the US Ambassador to Seychelles Shari Villarosa. (Louis Toussaint, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles has taken another step to reinforce its international air connectivity by signing its first air transport agreement with the United States of America.
Tourism and trade are the two main sectors that are expected to benefit.
Such an agreement between the two sides has been on the table since December 2012 and it was further discussed in October this year, at eighth annual forum of member states of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO.
Seychelles and the US established diplomatic ties in 1976.
While the US is not an important tourism market for the Indian Ocean archipelago, this is one sector which both sides believe has the potential to be further developed.
According to statistics available on the Seychelles National Bureau of Statistics website, in 2014, Seychelles welcomed 4, 533 visitors from the US.
The Seychelles transport minister Joel Morgan has said that the US tourism market can be further strengthened, as the agreement makes provision to ease connectivity between the two countries.
“In spite of the US being a faraway market for Seychelles, it’s one that brings much value," says Morgan.
He adds that transportation of cargo will also benefit, as many people in Seychelles shop online.
To date, the US has signed 'open-skies' agreements with 120 countries around the world.
“Our experience and that of many other nations demonstrates that the best way to develop aviation to its full potential is by allowing operating decisions to be made by airlines in the open marketplace rather than by government regulators,” the US Ambassador to Seychelles Shari Villarosa told journalists on Monday.
“The US also believes that an open skies regime offers the best environment for developing markets to attract additional air services for the benefits of air travelers, shippers, tourism and the broader economy.”
The open skies agreement is expected to come into force in 2016. Discussions about when the first flight will take place are still ongoing.
Both Morgan and Villarosa have said that the air transport agreement will also help strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries.
One area that is being discussed is visa exemption for Seychellois national visiting the US. Currently, Seychellois passport holders have to apply for a visa at the US Embassy in Mauritius.
Concerning air connectivity, Morgan has said that Seychelles is working on negotiating bilateral air service agreements with a number of other countries including an ‘open-skies agreement with the European Union.