Traditionally, Tourism Week, and especially Tourism Day, in Seychelles serves as a prism through which we view the successes and the challenges that our prized industry faces in any given year as well as being an opportunity for us to take stock of what has been achieved and what remains to be done.
As it is customary every year, we have a theme and this year’s theme is: Tourism: back with Confidence.
This year, 2020, is turning out to be the proverbial anno horribilis for not only our islands but also much of the planet as we continue to struggle against the medical threat of the Covid 19 pandemic, and also the economic mayhem that the virus trails in its wake.
We talk much these days of the global village and how the way our planet, and indeed the way we lead our lives in general, have become more closely linked and intrinsically interconnected.
It has become something of an unfortunate joke whenever we refer to one economic sector sneezing and, in consequence, all the others catching a cold.
Sadly, never has that been truer than this year. So far, the Covid threat has forced a shift in the behavioural patterns of our societies which has trickled down through our society and its economy in general and in doing so it has upended the normality we once knew and were so familiar with, and replaced it with insecurity and doubt.
And yet, I stand before you all today, with a message of hope and with a rallying cry for all Seychellois that although our cherished industry is facing profound challenges that are not of our own making, we remain resolute in our determination to prepare ourselves as carefully as we can for the better days that undoubtedly lie ahead.
There are many different hypotheses out there about how the advent of Covid-19 around the world will cause changes to the dynamics of tourism, to our societies and to the way we function within those very societies.
Indeed, there remains much that we do not know, and cannot realistically be expected to know, about exactly how we will eventually defeat this disease and bounce back.
Yet, it is being pretty much internationally accepted that bounce back we will and, when that happens, we will bounce back with confidence.
One thing is for certain: namely that when tourism does return, one major driving factor will be on the basis of new norms of safety & security as we have never known them before.
If we are to be successful in our comeback, then it is critical that not only do we do what is required of us in terms of carrying out to the letter, the rules and regulations necessary for our own safety and those of our visitors…but that we are seen to do so!
Compliance with those measures that have been designed to ensure to the maximum, our own safety and that of our visitors, will go a long way in building the reputation for safety required to attract back our tourists to these shores.
Already, the efficient way that our Seychelles health and other authorities have managed the Covid-19 pandemic up to now against a global backdrop of widespread confusion and inconsistency, has built a strong marketing platform and an enviable atmosphere of safety from which our tourism industry can operate with confidence. Our new marketing initiative Seychelles: our home-your sanctuary is just one reflection of this confidence.
Since the 1st of June when we partially opened our international airport to visitors we have progressively develop a model for the tourism sector during this global pandemic. We have set up a task force comprised of public health officers, civil aviation and airline operators, tourism and financial experts from both the public and private sector.
The president has also chaired on a bi-weekly basis an integrated management high-level committee to take stock and make decisions on key matters regarding the relaunching of our tourism industry. Next week on the 30th of September it will be two months since we opened our borders to commercial flights and so far we have successfully welcomed more than 3 000 visitors. It is of critical importance that we maintain this partnership between government, the private sector and civil society and that we all continue to work together, if we are to overcome this crisis.
I would like to assure our tourism stakeholders, partners and collaborators that our industry is still standing proud and patiently awaiting the signal to resume business as we used to know it.
As we busy ourselves with preparation for this, so let us also use this global calamity to take stock of our tourism industry and investigate ways in which we can individually and collectively become the best tourism version of ourselves that we can possibly be.
This, by fostering the notion of safety, sustainability together with the high standards of professionalism, courtesy and hospitality required to win back – and maintain – market share.