Durban — When the world went into lockdown from March this year in a global effort to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries economies took a battering as industries closed, restaurants and bars were shuttered, workers were laid off and once vibrant cities were turned into ghost towns.
No more was the devastating effect of the coronavirus felt than on the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands off the north-east coast of Africa, which has built its entire economy on the back of tourism.
At least 80% of Seychelles gross domestic product and employment is derived from tourism so when the world shut down, the about 97 000 residents of Seychelles held their collective breath.
“It was the saddest thing to see,” said Ash Behari, general manager of Hotel Coco De Mer on the island of Praslin.
“When the lockdown hit we were getting up to 120 cancellations every day for the rest of the year. After 30 years of working to build this, it was very sad to see,” added Beharie, who was born in Durban but has lived in Seychelles since 1993.
As fear gripped the global community and tourists packed their bags for their home countries, the government of Seychelles undertook to pay the salaries of all those in the tourist sector until the end of December.
The country’s hotels too played their part, choosing not to lay off any staff.
Now, as lockdown restrictions around the world ease, even as some countries are going through a second wave of coronavirus infections, Seychelles is once again opening their borders to tourists.
However, tourists visiting the island nation have to obey strict Covid-19 regulations during their stay.
Seychelles had no cases of infections until the latter part of November when a group of European tourists transmitted the virus to two hotel staff on Praslin.
The incident was a dark reminder to authorities of the balancing act protecting its people from the virus while opening the economy to tourists who are needed for their euros and dollars.
It is why the government has made wearing of masks mandatory in public, signing of registers at restaurants for contact tracing purposes, temperature checks at venues and public transport and constant hand sanitising.
Tourists coming into Seychelles have to undergo a mandatory Covid-19 PCR test at least 72 hours before arrival which has to be uploaded onto the Seychelles Travel Authorisation website. The fee for this is 45 euros (R814).
Movement of tourists has also been curtailed as those entering the country under the spectre of the coronavirus are only allowed to book their holiday at no more than two hotels.
Once you check through immigration and set foot on the islands it quickly becomes clear why this part of the world is a holidaymaker’s paradise.
The country is rich in natural beauty, its wildlife, flora and fauna take your breath away and its white sand beaches and crystal clear waters is a sight to behold.
Its people are warm and friendly and are conscious about how important tourism is for the country and are therefore eager to assist with information about where you are going and what you must see. They are living, breathing testaments to their country who are so embracing of tourists that after a while, to the tourist, the local feels like an extra in their personal island movie.