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SPEECH BY MINISTER SYLVESTRE RADEGONDE FOR THE INAUGURAL FLIGHT OF AEROFLOT TO SEYCHELLES

FRIDAY 2nd APRIL 2021

SEYCHELLES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

MINISTER’S SPEECH

We are gathered here today for a special occasion. A special occasion for our civil aviation and for our tourism industry. And a new step forward in the relations between the Republic of Seychelles and the Russian Federation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

After an absence of 17 years Aeroflot is back! Its inaugural flight – Boeing 777-300 touched down a few moments ago with 402 passengers.

The resumption of direct flights from Moscow to Victoria testifies to the confidence of the Russian national carrier in our tourism industry. Seychelles is a much sought-after destination in Russia and in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The Russian market has always been a profitable one for Seychelles, featuring in the top 7 destinations every year. It is a high-yield market, with an average stay of 9 to 13 nights. But visitor arrivals have been impeded by the lack of direct flights from Moscow.

In 2003, when Aeroflot pulled out of Seychelles, we were receiving around 3,000 visitors per year. In 2019, a little more than 13,000 visitors from Russia and the CIS. visited Seychelles, corresponding to a slight decrease over previous years. In simple terms, we lost market share to one of our main competitors: Maldives. The figures speak for themselves. In 2019, according to official data, over 83,000 Russian tourists visited the Maldives, breaking all pre-pandemic records.

With the introduction of twice-weekly flights by Aeroflot, I am hopeful that we can not only reclaim, but increase, our share of the Russian and the CIS market. It is within our ability to do so. We can do it if we all work together as a team – government and the private sector together.

We need to refine our product, distinguish ourselves from other similar destinations by providing our visitors with the ultimate Seychelles experience. We need to re-double our marketing efforts. We need to provide value for money, quality service in our establishments. We need to get out of our comfort zones and to stop being complacent. I said it earlier this month and I shall repeat it: we are not the unique destination we claim to be! Competition out there is fierce and relentless.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The resumption of direct flights from Russia to Seychelles augurs well for us all. It augurs well, not only for the influx of visitor arrivals, but also for relations between Seychelles and the Russian Federation. This event is the result of long and arduous negotiations between the Government of Seychelles and the Embassy of the Russian Federation. It attests to the desire of both Seychelles and Russia to take our relations to a new level. Russia has been a valued partner of Seychelles since our Independence. We have achieved many things together. And we shall continue to achieve more in the future in the spirit of cooperation, solidarity and mutual respect. The return of Aeroflot to our shores will, I am confident, contribute to this.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Ambassador the Russian Federation, His Excellency Mr Artyom Kozhin, for all his efforts in making possible the resumption of direct flights between our two countries. SPASIBA BOLSHOY!

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is no coincidence that so many visitors have arrived on this first inaugural flight from Moscow. It demonstrates the level of confidence they have in Seychelles as a safe and welcoming destination. It also demonstrates their confidence in the health and safety measures that we have put in place.

Let us welcome them and host them, keeping in mind all the health and safety protocols in place. Let us treat them to the holiday they deserve, as our privileged guests. Let us make their stay in our country a memorable experience so that they come back and encourage many others to visit Seychelles.

SPASIBA BOLSHOY!

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