Who can resist the picture-perfect beauty of the Seychelles? As the island destination broadens its endless blue tourism horizons and embraces inclusivity, more and more travellers are ticking it off their to-do list. Emily Millett writes.
The Seychelles has always been a firm favourite on the tourism destination bucket list. And with last year’s arrivals into the country surpassing predictions made by the Seychelles Tourism Board, having hit a new record of nearly 350,000 visitors, it seems this island paradise is showing no signs of slowing down.
Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show that a record 349,861 visitors travelled to the Seychelles in 2017, representing a significant 15 per cent increase compared to the previous year.
“I believe that it is a very encouraging performance because it will definitely encourage all of us – not just the tourism board but our partners as well – to keep working hard and make 2018 an even better year,” said CEO, Seychelles Tourism Board, Sherin Francis.
The increase in arrivals can, in part, be credited to the increased number of flights landing in the destination in 2017, as sales and marketing manager, Eden Bleu Hotel, Celia Ponzo told TTG: “The main influence affecting tourism trends in the Seychelles is the immense new connections we now have with the rest of the world, as this year, the Seychelles has welcomed new airlines providing new direct routes.
“We are responding to this in a very positive way as it offers us more opportunities to venture and explore new markets. With the new connections arriving in the Seychelles, we will see a definite increase in our current markets, especially the British and French, as these are two of the new airline routes newly operating this year,” Ponzo added.
New flight connectivity is also helping to boost figures, with Germany topping the list with over 50,000 visitors in 2017 and the recent arrivals of Austrian Airlines and Turkish Airlines. According to statistics, the UAE and GCC countries also contributed a significant number of visitors to the Seychelles last year, with the UAE alone emerging as the third leading market in 2017, sending over 28,000 visitors to the island destination.
The Seychelles holds the environment close to its heart, and it comes as no surprise that its newly appointed Minister of Tourism, Didier Dogley (formerly the Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change) has committed himself to protecting this key asset, with a renewed and strengthened effort towards a more sustainable tourism approach.
“In a world where unspoiled natural landscapes and seascapes are becoming a rare asset, Seychelles still offers a wide array of unique sites with breathtaking beauty and exceptional experiences,” he said. “My vision is to use my knowledge and experience in environmental stewardship, coupled with a strong partnership with the trade, to ensure that the Seychelles becomes a model for sustainable tourism to the world, enriched by the Creole culture and the hospitality of our people.”
In response to the push for sustainable tourism practices in the Seychelles, the tourism board recently renewed the Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label (SSTL) certification for three hotels – Cote d’Or Footprints and Constance Lemuria on Praslin, and the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Baie Lazare. Applicable to hotels of all sizes, the SSTL is a voluntary sustainable tourism management and certification programme, designed to encourage more efficient and sustainable ways of doing business.
And elsewhere, properties across the destination are placing increasing emphasis on ‘greenifying’ their operations, as Ponzo said: “We are also focused this year on going green, in line with other initiatives in the Seychelles. We are moving towards going paperless, and in fact, we just introduced a new interactive system in our rooms that allows you to present all information on SMART LED screens.”
EXPANDING TRADITIONAL MARKETS
While new initiatives are continuously being implemented in the Seychelles in a bid to stay up-to-date with the needs and wants of the contemporary traveller, the industry is also simultaneously staying true to its traditional market segments, including the fastest growing tourism sector worldwide – the cruise industry. Rising exponentially year-on-year, the cruise sector is set to see further growth in 2018, with German cruise line, Aida, set to join the line-up of frequent callers, such as Costa and MSC cruises.
Despite previously earning a well-deserved reputation as a luxury destination, The Seychelles Hospitality & Tourism Association (SHTA) has recently made a move to become more inclusive with a ‘Tourism for All’ campaign designed to consolidate the island’s tourism industry. And Eden Bleu Hotel is taking the drive for inclusive tourism seriously, with plans to develop the destination’s currently under-served MICE market.
“Eden Bleu Hotel is unique as we are developing the MICE market,” said Ponzo. “We are offering more and more opportunities for international corporates and incentive houses to consider the Seychelles as the perfect MICE destination, and Eden Bleu offers everything they could need.”
In addition to promoting the destination’s burgeoning MICE market, the property has also recently added new Luxury Marina Residences on Eden Island, in addition to the Eden Bleu Hotel, with deluxe and luxury rooms already available.
“This new accommodation option has access to four private beaches, a tennis court, a communal swimming pool, a clubhouse and a golf buggy,” said Ponzo. “Guests will be able to make use of all the Eden Bleu facilities as they are all very well connected to the hotel.”
With traditional market segments holding fast, the Seychelles is currently seeing an evolution and growth of its tourism potential, with new markets, new initiatives, new campaigns and new airline routes.