Rebecca Bundhun from “The National” from United Arab Emirates (UAE) wrote of the Seychelles last week. ETurboNews followed the article with the Seychelles Tourism Board, and giving due credit to Ms. Budhun of “The National,” the Seychelles Tourism Board wants to reprint the article as it brings to life the development of a market by adequate air access.
The number of tourists from the UAE to the Seychelles surged last year as Emirates Airline increased its flights to the archipelago in the Indian Ocean. That helped the country to achieve its highest annual total number of international visitors, according to the Seychelles Tourism Board.
In the year to January 2, the number of UAE passport holders traveling to the Seychelles increased by 40 percent to 5,417 tourists compared with 3,865 in the same period the previous year, data from the Seychelles National Board of Statistics showed.
The tourism board said the wider region was also becoming increasingly important for its tourism industry.
“The Middle East is a market that we treated all the time as a secondary market,” said Alain St. Ange, the chief executive officer of the tourism board.
“Today it is not just a secondary market; it has high potential and we’re putting the interest there. It is the area with the biggest growth potential because of the air connectivity.”
In terms of the broader tourism trends, there was an 11 percent increase in the number of visitors last year to 176,088 tourists, following a 1 percent decline the previous year.
In 2009, tourist numbers from the UAE to the country were up 9 percent on 2008.
Two years ago, Emirates operated four flights a week from Dubai to the island, Mr. St. Ange said. Emirates added three flights last year, and the airline this month announced that a further three flights a week would be added in March, bringing the total to 10.
Emirates has also increased its holiday packages to the destination, targeting honeymooners and general tourists during the Eid holidays in particular, Mr. St. Ange said. Qatar Airways has also increased its frequency of flights into the Seychelles. The country’s resorts had to offer more attractive deals to lure tourists following the economic downturn, he said.
Emirates has further interests in the Seychelles. The group plans to build a US$253 million (Dh929.2m) eco-resort, construction of which was originally expected to begin in 2008. However, the project is still in the design phase. The development, called the Cap Ternay Resort and Spa, would be “the largest-ever development” in the Seychelles, Emirates has said.
Hotel companies there are also seeing potential for growth in tourists from the region, particularly as the Middle East’s airline expansion opens up travel to the country from other parts of the world.
“Dubai and the wider Middle East is a very strong market for Europe and Asia,” said Rudi Jagersbacher, the area president, Middle East, and Africa, for Hilton Worldwide.
Hilton last week signed an agreement in Dubai to manage its second hotel in the Seychelles.
Long marketed as an exclusive destination for the very wealthy, the Seychelles is now trying to shake off that image.
“What has happened is that Seychelles has repositioned itself and relaunched itself,” said Mr. St. Ange. “Before, the old campaign of the Seychelles was the five-star properties. This had been a mistake because the five-star travelers only use the front of the plane, and we have to fill the back of the plane. We re-positioned Seychelles a year and a half ago by saying it is affordable. There is accommodation for every budget.”