The Ministry of Tourism has identified 24 hotels to use as transit facilities that will welcome visitors from leading tourist markets even if their COVID-19 infection rate changes, said a top official on Tuesday.
The tourism minister, Didier Dogley, who chairs a task force set up to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, told reporters that the transit hotels are part of two special conditions being put in place on October 1.
Dogley is part of a high-level forum responsible for the implementation of the National Integrated Framework for the opening of Seychelles to commercial flights.
The transit hotels are being set up as a response to the negative repercussions Seychelles faced when the COVID-19 situation changed in France and the United Kingdom.
He said that "there was a lot of cancellation of bookings not only for September but also for October and November. We understood that we had to look at another system."
To be approved as a transit hotel, an establishment cannot be located in a densely populated area or in a place where the visitor can leave the premises whenever they want. The visitor will be allowed to use all facilities located within the boundary of the establishment.
"Visitors to these hotels will not be allowed out of their establishments for the first four days of their stay. On the fifth day, the Public Health Authority will carry out a PCR test and if their tests are negative, the persons will be allowed to spend their stay in another establishment in Seychelles," said Dogley.
Also discussed was a new Special Status category that the key markets for Seychelles' tourism industry will fall under and these are Italy, France, Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Austria and the United Arab Emirates. Visitors will still be able to come to Seychelles from those countries even if their COVID-10 situation changes but will need to meet stringent criteria prior to and following entry into the country to ensure greater safety of citizens.
The taskforce team also discussed a new visitor management platform that will enable authorities to run rapid and efficient vetting procedures on information provided by incoming travellers in a bid to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
"The new system is favourable. The only issue that was being expressed with the new system is what the technician called an expression fee. There was a surcharge that was being applied for late submission. And this was put in place to prevent people from creating pressure on the system as it takes time for the doctors to go over the documents," he added.
Dolgey said that the ministry decided to review this fee -- $50 in most cases -- which was considered by businesses in general as a deterrent to the tourism industry.
Another point that was discussed by the taskforce team was the possibility of opening flights between Israel and Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean.
"We were expecting to have some flights in October which coincide with the Jewish festival of Sukkot celebrated in Israel. At this time of the year, Israelis love to travel. But now they are experiencing a spike in cases of COVID-19," said Dogley.
Tourism is the top contributor to Seychelles' economy and since the closure of its borders because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector has been badly affected.