Sherin Francis, chief executive officer of Seychelles Tourism Board, said: “For a few years now, we have been experiencing double digit growth and will end this year on around 360,000 visitors.
That may seem modest, but we are an island nation of 90,000 people; we do not want huge numbers of tourists. It is about quality not quantity.”
She said however that predictions for next year could see the islands welcome 8% more visitors, hitting the 400,000 mark.
“Such consistent growth is a result of our strategy to focus on the trade, educating them more and filling in those knowledge gaps,” said Francis. “It’s all very well to have a consumer focus [in marketing], but we knew we needed to get more agents and operators filled in about Seychelles.
“The trade is especially important for us for a number of reasons – we are quite a luxury destination, and we know that segment is one that wants to book with agents and we are a multi-island destination, for which people look for more support on their planning and booking. As many as 60% of our guests book via the trade.”
New flights will include British Airways’ direct service from Heathrow to Mahe from March, which Francis was signing a three-year marketing plan with the airline with during WTM London. “These flights will be a big catalyst for us,” she said.
Austrian Airlines launched flights from Vienna on October 25 and Francis said announcement of another direct flight from Europe was “imminent”.
Buoyed by new airline capacity such as Turkish Airlines, Europe generally is “performing very well”, up by 17% as a continent, including upcoming source markets such as Switzerland, Austria, Scandinavia and Central Europe.
“Qatar Airways’ launch of flights last year has also given us a huge boost, and fits with our more premium strategy,” said Francis. “Plans are also in place to build a new international airport terminal.”
Speaking about the threat of travellers bringing in the plague from Madagascar, Francis added that measures had been put in place to avoid contamination.
“Air Seychelles temporarily suspended service between Seychelles and Madagascar earlier in October and anyone arriving [from Madagascar] has to be placed into quarantine for six days,” she said. “The key is not to panic - we are a safe and healthy destination and have taken all the precautionary measures. We have been discouraging anyone from combining the two destinations.”