After seeing its economy suffer a 13% contraction last year due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Seychelles government says it is ready to reopen the country’s borders to tourists as part of efforts to bolster the economic activities in the country.
Seychelles’ Foreign Affairs and Tourism Minister, Sylvestre Radegonde made this known during an interview with Bloomberg Radio recently.
Seychelles, a sunny Indian Ocean archipelago relies heavily on tourism, which was badly affected by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic which brought about a 70% decline of tourist arrivals into the country.
According to Radegonde, “For a small economy, this is massive; we have really taken a bashing in 2020.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister further expressed optimism over the country’s economic outlook for the year as expects to see a rise to as many as 189,000 tourists coming into the country as opposed to the 114,858 visitors that visited before travel restrictions were imposed last year.
Vaccinations have been key to the decision to reopen borders in the nation of about 98,500 people. So far 90% have received a first jab and 45% have obtained the required two. The plan is to reach herd immunity so as to allow visitors who have tested negative for the coronavirus unrestricted access to the islands.
Seychelles is targeting secondary markets in Eastern Europe — primarily Russia — the Middle East and Israel, as the main market Europe struggles with a spike in coronavirus infections, Radegonde said.
According to the World Bank Seychelles has the highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in Africa, at $12.3 billion in 2020. Seychelles is highly dependent on tourism, and climate change poses long-term sustainability risks.