As the Indian Ocean gradually repens to tourism, Remco Althuis, chief executive of Air Seychelles, here tells Breaking Travel News how his airline has reshaped operations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Breaking Travel News: How have the global travel restrictions, in particular the constantly shifting travel corridors, impacted your operations as an airline over the past year?
Remco Althuis: Following travel restrictions imposed globally early last year due to the pandemic, leading to reduction in commercial passenger services, Air Seychelles had to transform its business model to focus on operating cargo and repatriation flights only.
Within a short period of time, the team had to work on a concept to ensure that these flights are conducted sustainably, within the health protocols and most of all remains commercially viable.
I am happy to say that when travel was almost at a standstill in the Indian Ocean, at one point the airline’s A320neo aircraft managed to be spotted at over 40 new destinations across the globe, carrying essential cargo in addition to connecting stranded families together.
Shifting the business around in a short time frame was not easy, but the Air Seychelles team remained resilient and embraced the challenges with great determination.
BTN: Why is collaboration across the travel industry essential to navigating the post-virus landscape?
RA: For a country like the Seychelles, whose economy is heavily reliant on tourism, collaboration with all key partners in the tourism, trade, government and aviation industries is crucial during this unprecedented time.
The impact of the pandemic has shown that for a country to move forward successfully during this hard time, all key partners need to be in this process together.
The changes must start within the country itself by implementing measures, awareness and procedures to ensure the safety of travellers and the local population.
Once this has been achieved and borders globally start to reopen, only then can Seychelles start to see recovery in the tourism and travel industry.
Aligning strategies together will not only benefit the airline, but the country as a whole, hence a collaborated effort is the only way forward.
BTN: What trends in travel and tourism do you see emerging in the aftermath of the pandemic?
RA: We have started to see bookings come in during the second and late third quarter of 2021 for travel across our network, thus showing there is still demand to travel.
However to reach its full capacity, it is going to be a gradual process given that not all countries have started their vaccination process and lockdowns are also being extended further for example in the European countries.
Achieving herd immunity globally will be the only way that travel can resume at its full capacity and we have seen that in markets that are currently at the forefront of their vaccination programmes.
The willingness for people to travel is there and the vaccination programmes are completed as an airline we need to be ready to seize the right opportunity in these markets.
BTN: How has the pandemic changed Air Seychelles product and services?
RA: Given that Air Seychelles took delivery of two brand new A320neo aircraft in late 2019 and early 2020, the onboard product has not changed as the airline had just completed revamping its entire aircraft cabins.
In terms of passengers and crew, wearing a mask has now become the new norm for travel, including wearing full protective equipment at certain destinations as per regulations,
In line with the health measures, guests’ temperatures are being taken prior to boarding the aircraft and to limit movements onboard guests are also being requested not to change their seats.
Even if these new changes have been implemented, at Air Seychelles we continue to deliver the unrivalled customer service we are proud of, and as always, we are ready to welcome our guests back onboard with our warm creole hospitality.
Find out more about the company on the official website.