Most airlines that were operating flights to Seychelles before the COVID-19 pandemic are expected back in the country by December, should the global situation continue its positive trajectory, a high official said.
The chief executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB), Sherin Francis, told SNA on Thursday that "airlines are key in the relaunching of our tourism industry."
Seychelles closed its airport to commercial international flights in late March due to the pandemic outbreak. Since the island nation reopened its borders to commercial passenger flights on August 1, three international airlines - Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines and Edelweiss - are flying to Seychelles.
British Airways is expected to land in the 115-island nation in the western Indian Ocean on October 10, and Kenya Airways in mid-October.
"In the region, we have Air Austral for November and hopefully Air Seychelles will also start some of its flights by then, should all go well. Most of the other airlines are positioning themselves for December and this includes Air France, Condor, Turkish Airlines and provisionally Qatar," said Francis.
She added that she and her team are working closely with airlines that have shown interest in operating flights to Seychelles and teaming up marketing efforts to ensure planes are filled as much as possible.
Francis outlined that "Edelweiss started on a good note as the two flights it has operated so far had a really good load factor, especially the one that landed last Sunday."
"For the time being, British Airways also has a satisfying load for the first flight. It is important that we can build onto this momentum," she said.
In a recent interview with the press, the tourism minister, Didier Dogley, said that "soon we will have two airlines coming with direct flights from Europe and this is an important development as direct flights mean that tourists do not go through hubs and this reduces the possibility of a person to get infected while they are travelling."
Direct flights to Europe also mean visitors from Seychelles' main European markets - Germany, Italy, France, the UK, Switzerland and Austria - will have direct links to the island nation.
As a means to encourage more tourism exchange with countries in the region, STB is working to create a safe regional travel corridor. STB is currently communicating with the Mauritian authorities and a team from Reunion to develop this travel corridor.
"We want to look at the possibility of regional tourism through the vanilla islands. We are currently looking at Mauritius and Reunion. Mauritius is not a traditional market for us, but currently, things are different. Now that Mauritius is starting to reopen its borders, there isn't much of an option as to where people can go on holiday. We know that a lot of Mauritians are travelling to Rodrigues for holidays at the moment and we want Seychelles to become the next option," said Francis.
She added that STB will also need the firm commitment of the two airlines - Air Austral and Air Seychelles - that will be flying to Reunion island and Mauritius.