Seychelles Tourism Board pushing resorts to get creative to attract the few tourists now travelling

As part of its strategy to kick-start the tourism industry on the island nation, the Seychelles Tourism Board is calling on all players to become innovative and creative in attracting the few visitors who are confident enough to travel during COVID-19. 

The Board which held its mid-term review on Friday said that the few travellers have so many options and Seychelles must stand out. 

“We are putting emphasis on value, this is where our services need to be of a high standard, offer more specialized services, think outside the box and offer a little more for value. Offer more facilities like room service and even to maintain physical distance offer dinner in the garden because we are also operating in the new normal,” said Sherin Francis, the chief executive of the board.

In her presentation - global marketing strategy for Seychelles Tourism Recovery - Francis highlighted that for now, the tourism industry recovery in Seychelles depends on three key factors: Maintaining demand, reducing the impact on suppliers, and enabling economic recovery. Francis said that this needs to be done by re-enforcing digital marketing, and when the time comes, establish more aggressive marketing strategies.

“Emphasis must be put on User-Generated Content which allows STB to increase trust in the destination and brand. In addition, remain in contact with local suppliers and work towards addressing their concerns where possible,” said Francis.

According to the chief executive daily traffic to online travel agency websites and travel metasearch engines is slowly improving. “It was down roughly 80 percent year-over-year in early-April, but somewhat improved in the third week of May, when it was down only 73 percent year-over-year.”Francis added that efficient use of market intelligence and research to enable better timing and launching of marketing tactics and campaigns is also crucial. “Despite concerns related to COVID-19, figures show that a significant portion of people would still be willing to travel if they had the opportunity to do so. There is growing confidence in travel and people are starting to research potential destinations,” said Francis.

At least five of the 13 airlines which were flying to Seychelles pre-COVID will resume flights to the destination, including Etihad, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Austral and Edelweiss.

But as the country prepares to open its borders and welcome visitors as of August,1 only 41 establishments in the tourism sector have been certified ready for reopening as adhering to all COVID-19 guidelines from the health authority. Nearly 700 still need to do more work to get the certification. The chief executive added that “overall only 17 percent of all tourism-related businesses are ready so there is a lot of work still to be done.” 

But not all looks gloomy for the industry, as bookings are picking up as of October, and things are expecting to be even better by January. “Travelers will want certainty and peace of mind, therefore, a hotel that allows for last-minute changes and cancellations without penalties, airlines, and other relevant businesses will have to consider offering flexible booking policies,” concluded Francis.  

Tourism is the main pillar of Seychelles' economy. In March it was revealed that a survey showed that at least 2,367 bookings worth $3.8 million were cancelled between February 25 and March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.The Seychelles Tourism Board said that for now, it will be tapping into markets where there are interests to visit the islands but not necessarily targeting one specific market.