With the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on its eastern European tourism markets, Seychelles will experience an economic crisis worse than that caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, said a top official on Friday.
Tourism Minister Sylvestre Radegonde said that the conflict would affect Seychelles’ leading tourism market, Russia.
The market brought 32,000 tourists to Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, in 2021.
As a result of COVID-19, Seychelles turned to eastern European markets after a downturn in travel from western markets, namely Germany, France, and Italy, affected arrivals.
“International flights operated by Aeroflot, Emirates, and Turkish Airlines are still connecting Russia with Seychelles, “ he said.
“Looking at the current figures, we see that there have been some cancellations, but not to the level we thought they would be. With the war on its eighth day, sanctions placed by the U.S. and EU countries are still fresh and as such have not fully kicked in. When they do, we will truly see the impacts.”
Nearly 250 passengers landed on Friday in Seychelles on Aeroflot, according to the tourism department. However, Russian visitors disembarking in Seychelles are paying in cash only, since they are not able to use SWIFT, MasterCard, or VisaCard due to sanctions.
“As the sanctions bite in, you will see that Aeroflot will naturally stop operating, but this will not mean that Russians will not come to Seychelles. Russians will find other means to reach Seychelles,” said Radegonde.
Moreover, he noted that Russian-owned companies in Seychelles are also at risk of ceasing to operate in the country if their headquarters are in Russia. As a result of the sanctions, hundreds of Seychellois could lose their jobs overnight because their employers are unable to pay salaries.
There are currently three Russian-owned tourism establishments in Seychelles, including Savoy and Coral Strand.
Seychelles’ fourth-largest market, Ukraine, has closed its airspace.
“To be able to leave Ukraine for a holiday to Seychelles, they really have to be willing to do so. Their priority right now is security. Local tourism establishments have shared with us today that there are clients calling from bunkers to cancel their reservations,” said Radegonde.
While cancellations are occurring from the two countries, he added that as restrictions have been lifted, new bookings from western European countries are filling the vacancies. France is currently Seychelles’ second most important market.
Israel and Saudi Arabia are also on the radar of the tourism department as a means of diversifying and enhancing its basket should things in Europe worsen.
Seychelles will not achieve its goal of 258,000 visitors arrivals by 2022 with its current situation.
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