Sun, Sand and Shore: Welcome to Seychelles

COMESA 2018 Special Report, By Ambassador Marie-Antoinette Rose-Quatre*

COMESA 2018 Special Report

Take a handful of exotic islands, and disperse them across the Indian Ocean. Blend with white sand, turquoise water, and stir in some tropical spice and fruits. Surround in heaps of warm, blue water and wrap up with a dusting of travellers steeped in heaven. That’s our special recipe for Seychelles.

Seychelles is one of the world’s most beautiful tropical island destinations. The archipelago consists of 11 islands spread out over a 1 million km2 area of the western Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar, with a total land area of 444 km2.

Boasting year-round warm weather, Seychelles is surrounded by picturesque mountains, spectacular rock formations, world-class beaches, and lapped by clear, azure waters. The islands’ unique and rich biodiversity, ranging from giant land tortoises and the endemic Coco de Mer - the biggest nut in the world, to virgin fishing grounds and spectacular diving sites, provide the perfect setting for a tropical getaway.

It is no surprise that those breathtaking picture-postcard features keep attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year – from those seeking to vacation at an exotic beach destination to those looking for the perfect beach wedding and honeymoon spot.

And, as an added bonus, Seychelles is in perfect proximity to the African continent allowing visitors to pair up their beach holiday with a safari in Kenya or South Africa.

Capitalising on the nation's natural beauty

Seychelles’ economy is highly dependent on tourism and has been witnessing a year-on-year increase in arrival numbers in recent years. After passing the 300,000 mark in 2016, the small archipelago with a population of around 93,000 people welcomed 340,347 visitors in 2017, representing a 16 percent increase over the previous year.

Europe has always been the traditional market sending the most visitors to Seychelles, with Germany, France, Italy, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, and Russia being among the top contributors. In recent years, other emerging markets have also shown their interest which include the United Arab Emirates (UAE), South Africa and China.

Tapping into new emerging markets is a strategy adopted by the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) – the body responsible for promoting the destination internationally, with the aim of diversifying the island’s tourism markets.

Although Seychelles competes with neighbouring islands in the region that are also offering beach holidays, the country is keen on promoting joint travel options for holidaymakers visiting the Indian Ocean region through the Vanilla Islands brand initiated in 2010.

The aviation industry

The aviation industry of Seychelles is fiercely competitive and will become even more so in 2018 as some of the largest carriers begin flying to Seychelles. Presently, 11 airlines are serving the Seychelles route and making it more accessible to visitors from across the globe.

British Airways, Air France – through its sister airline ‘Joon’ – and Edelweiss Air will be making their way to Seychelles in 2018. They will be joining Austrian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airline, SriLankan Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates Airline, Air Seychelles, Condor, Air Austral, Kenya Airways and Etihad Airways.

British Airways is soon launching direct flights which will operate twice a week. Air France’s sister airline ‘Joon’ will join in with its thrice-weekly flights from May 2018 onwards, while Edelweiss Air will be flying from Zurich to Seychelles as from September 2018.

The once-a-week service by Edelweiss will connect Seychelles to three German-speaking countries – Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Ethiopian Airlines, which added a sixth weekly flight on the Seychelles route in 2017, has also announced plans to start flying daily to Seychelles in 2018.

Besides air connectivity, cruise tourism is also booming; the current cruise ship season from October 2017 to April 2018 is expected to see some 42 port calls season with just under 50,000 visitors.

While both air and sea ports continue to see an increase in the number of visitors, work is being done to improve the infrastructure of both sets of facilities. There is a new domestic terminal being constructed at the national airport which will be ready by July 2018, while financing has been secured for the port extension project which will start in early 2019 and is projected to be completed by the end of 2020.

Embracing sports tourism

The current Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports & Marine, Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, is keen to set a new target for the coming years. The ultimate goal is to achieve 500,000 visitors and $700 million in tourism earnings by 2021, with a focus on high-end tourists to help attain this target.

Sports tourism is one area being tapped into. In 2018 already, the tiny Seychelles archipelago is hosting four sporting events which will undoubtedly attract sports enthusiasts and their families from across the world.

The 11th edition of the Seychelles Eco-Friendly Marathon was held on 25th February, 2018. It is always held on the last Sunday of February. This year, it attracted even more participants than previous years. This Marathon provides a unique opportunity for marathon runners across the globe to not only savour the experience of running through some of the most amazing countrysides on Earth, but also enjoy a unique for healthy living through the recalibration of mind, body, and soul in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Preparations are now well underway for Seychelles to host the third series of the FINA Open Water World Cup competition, which is scheduled to take place on May 20th at the Beau Vallon Beach – one of the most popular tourist areas on the main island Mahe.

Seychelles, which is hosting the series for the first time this year, has already signed a contract to host the event annually for four years, aiming to attract not only swimmers but other visitors from across the globe.

A sailing competition – the Seychelles Regatta – is also back this year after a five-year break. The fourth edition of the sailing competition will also be seeing the participation of professional international skippers who will compete alongside local skippers.

For the first time this year, Seychelles will also be hosting a group of professional golf players on the European Senior Tour for a golf tournament, directly after the annual MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius.

The sky’s the limit

It is a known fact that the tourism industry is a competitive industry. STB has been working to increase Seychelles’ visibility on various social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

For the third consecutive year, STB was named the Indian Ocean’s Leading Tourist Board, while Seychelles was voted the Indian Ocean’s Leading Cruise Destination for the fourth consecutive year at the World Travel Awards in 2017.

The national airline, port authority, and several hotels were also proud winners at the same award ceremony. Seychelles also scooped the Favourite Beach/Island Destination accolade at the Condé Nast Traveller Readers' Choice Awards 2017.

Mindful of the fact that a lot of money is being invested in tourism, the industry that remains the bread and butter of most of the country’s population, is aware that they have to play their part to protect and preserve the image of Seychelles.

While the marketing strategies are key, it is the tourists themselves who are the greatest ambassadors of the tourism industry. Happy and satisfied visitors will undoubtedly have good stories to share with families and friends.

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Diplomatist Magazine was launched in October of 1996 as the signature magazine of L.B. Associates (Pvt) Ltd, a contract publishing house based in Noida, a satellite town of New Delhi, India, the National Capital.