BTN interview: Vincent Didon, business development director, Seychelles Ports Authority
With the Seychelles preparing to reopen its borders to international travellers next month, Breaking Travel News here speaks to Vincent Didon, business development director with the Seychelles Ports Authority, about what role the cruise sector is expected to play.
Breaking Travel News: Can you bring us up to date with where tourism currently stands in the Seychelles – you are preparing to reopen the borders to international travellers in the coming days?
Vincent Didon: Tourism has been the main pillar of the Seychelles economy for a number of years.
In order to bring the tourism sector up to speed with the new normal, the government of Seychelles reviewed a national framework for the integrated management of reopening the Seychelles International Airport.
In order to demonstrate the level of preparedness several departments and key stakeholders such as the department of tourism, the Seychelles Tourism Board and public health authority presented their plans and measures to manage commercial flights as from August 1st.
Over and above these preparations, the public health authority has developed several guidelines that are mandatory to be observed and adhered to at all times.
BTN: Where does the cruise segment fit into this – the sector has been hard hit by Covid-19, will it take longer to recover?
VD: Indeed, the cruise segment has been hit quite hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In order to minimise the risk of a second wave in Seychelles, the minister responsible for tourism, civil aviation, ports and marine, Didier Dogley, declared a moratorium of two years of cruise calls to Port Victoria upon the early closure of the cruise season this year.
This moratorium is subject for review as the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic progresses.
It is expected that the recovery will take about three years.
Cruise lines and passengers enjoy calling to Port Victoria, shown by location winning the title of Indian Ocean’s Leading Cruise Port seven times at the World Travel Awards - a success that that the Seychelles Ports Authority holds in very high esteem!
BTN: How important was the cruise market to the Seychelles before the global pandemic? When do you hope the sector might return to volumes seen in 2019?
VD: The cruise market has been a significant source of revenue and boost in tourism activities for both the private and public sector before the global pandemic.
This sector involved the engagement of the Seychelles Ports Authority coordinating with the ministry for tourism, civil aviation, ports and marine, as well as various other stakeholders and partners.
This market created jobs for persons greatly involved in the tourism industry such as the destination management companies, tour guides, boat charter operators, taxi, craft vendors and entertainers.
There is an integrated strategy being fostered by the Vanilla Islands Group on cruise in the Indian Ocean.
Perhaps, to start with, there will be smaller luxurious cruise calls instead of the larger cruise ships calling to Port Victoria.
It is anticipated that the volumes shall pick up once the global situation stabilises and we certainly hope that could more or less coincide with the completion of the new Mahe Quay, a project which is progress.
BTN: What will be different for cruise visitors when they do return to the Seychelles? What measures are you putting in place to ensure safety is maintained?
VD: First and foremost, there will be stricter public health guidelines when it comes to clearance of cruise visitors and vessels calling to Port Victoria.
Similar to what is being done now, cruise passengers and crew will be required to provide a weekly temperature check in addition to submission of a certification of being Covid-19 free prior to calling to port.
The public health officers shall provide checks upon arrival prior to the vessel being granted permission to berth.
Once all the measures are agreed upon, these shall be shared with the relevant ministries, shipping agents, and all stakeholders involved in the cruise sector.
BTN: Voting is currently open for the title of Indian Ocean’s Leading Cruise Port, an award Seychelles Port Authority took last year. What separates the destination from its competitors?
VD: ‘The acceuil Seychellois’ separates the destination from our competitors.
From the onset when cruise lines confirm Port Victoria in their itinerary, the shipping agents ensure that the requests are communicated to all relevant stakeholders.
Upon arrival, the ‘Seychellois feel’ is echoed by the agents boarding the cruise vessel, the welcome further extends the vibrant and warm ‘acceuil Seychellois’ when the vessels berths.
The A-Z consists of all the elements that makes Port Victoria the Indian Ocean’s Leading Cruise Port.
In short, Port Victoria offers as distinctly unique experience to the cruise tourism.
For more information on the cruise sector in the Seychelles, head over to the official website.