By Sharon Enesta
A two-year ban on cruise ships by the government of Seychelles has been welcomed even by sectors of society in the island nation that depend on the arrival of tourists for their livelihood, though some businesses say the decision will lead to tough economic times.
The ministry for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine said the ban is part of measures to prevent and minimise the impact of another outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
When announcing the measures last week, Minister Didier Dogley said the ban takes effect immediately and will last until the end of 2021. According to Dogley, the measure is in line with the World Tourism Organisation which is the United Nations’ specialised agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.
“The Seychelles Ports Authority appreciates the fact that the government has made a prudent decision to mitigate the impact that COVID-19 may have in the medium term. It is to be noted that the cruise industry has been a major catalyst by which the COVID-19 has spread throughout the world,” the chief executive of the authority told SNA on Thursday.
Ronny Brutus added that the decision will impact the revenue streams of the Seychelles Ports Authority (SPA), “but it is important to recognize the fact that the risk factor of a resurgence of the COVID-19 in Seychelles far outweighs the opportunity cost of not having cruise port calls for the next two years.”
Brutus said that port Victoria remains the only gateway to the economy and government cannot afford to compromise this strategic point of transit for trade and commerce which connects Seychelles’ maritime industry to the rest of the world.
The chief executive added that “port Victoria has won multiple accolades as the Best Cruise Port of the Indian Ocean and currently holds this title.”
“In the context of cruise port calls, the global outlook for the industry indicates the cruise sector will have to endure a very slow recovery trajectory which highly depends on a reliable and effective means to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. It is with optimism that the Seychelles Ports Authority looks beyond the two-year restriction, towards brighter and safer cruise seasons whereby all stakeholders associated with this interesting aspect of the tourism industry can bounce back stronger and more resilient,” concluded Brutus.
Minister Dogley explained that since the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures put in place to contain its diffusion are taking a heavy toll on the tourism sector, the government has taken several measures, including financial, to ensure that tourism-related businesses can survive and stay afloat during the COVID-19 difficulties until the tourism industry picks up.
But what implications does this ban mean for other businesses in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean?
The chief executive of the National Botanical Gardens Foundations said the decision is understandable. Raymond Brioche told SNA that the gardens – which sees many visitors during cruise ship season – will need to find alternatives to generate revenue. Brioche added that the foundation will need to be innovative and create other activities.
The leader of a boat charter business offered a gloomier reaction to the cruise ship ban.
“It is very very, very, very bad for us boat charters as our business depended a lot from the cruise ship season. Seventy-five percent of our revenue was from cruises, the rest was from other visitors,” said Lydia Bastienne of Mamila Boat charters.
Bastienne added that whilst there is no way around the ban with the pandemic still raging in the world they need to see what other activities to venture in “but this is challenging as businesses are doing more or less the same thing.”
Paquerette Lablache who specializes in tropical wears and curios said that businesses will only need to adapt as best they could to the situation.