In a meeting held on Wednesday 31st March 2021, Cabinet discussed the resumption of cruise ship calls in Seychelles. The meeting approved the immediate re-opening of the cruise sector following the moratorium imposed in May 2020. This followed a stakeholder meeting held on 16th March, 2021 chaired by the Minister responsible for Tourism consisting of both Government and private sector representatives to consider the possibility of re-opening this particular sector.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and associated risks and impacts, a moratorium was imposed in May 2020 on the entry of cruise ships to Seychelles. However, Government, aware of the impact of cruise ships on the economy, and now further equipped with a deeper understanding of the global pandemic as well as ways and means to mitigate its spread, initiated the process to tentatively re-open Seychelles to cruise ship visitors.
Taking into consideration the associated risks of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cabinet approved that, as a starting point, only small, sustainable cruise ships with a maximum capacity of 300 passengers will be allowed to dock in Port Victoria and cruise in the waters of Seychelles. These ships will be on the luxury end attracting high-end clients with elevated spending power, thereby offering greater value addition.
Cabinet advised that all ships must have well-established health and safety protocols, conforming to established international norms and to the standards of the Ministry of Health. The protocols must extend to disembarking clients going on tours or other related activities. Additionally, in order to lessen the impact of any outbreaks of COVID-19 on board the vessels, Cabinet approved that all crew and passengers must be encouraged to be vaccinated.
Cabinet further approved that, under strict guidelines, only a number of visitors will be allowed to disembark on certain designated islands so as not to disturb the environment and tranquillity enjoyed by the islands’ high-paying premium guests.
Moreover, Cabinet recommended that a committee of relevant stakeholders chaired by the Ministry responsible for Tourism be set up to develop a comprehensive plan of action, articulating how to reap maximum benefit from cruise tourists. The committee will assess and develop the relevant platforms necessary to facilitate additional activities and programmes to support the growth of the sector and allow revenue to trickle down the national economy.
The decision stands in line with Government’s approach of a ‘high value, low impact’ tourism model that Seychelles is striving for as well, as the need to safeguard the general health of the local population and the visitors.