Island destinations await tourists

The newly rebranded Ozen Reserve Vittaveli, Royal Residence, in the Maldives

The Indian Ocean islands have always been a popular holiday hunting grounds for tourists from the Middle East. In the wake of Covid-19, island destinations have been deemed safer to travel to due to the isolation they naturally provide, so these island nations are back on the top of the agenda for tour operators in the region.

As lockdowns around the world are gradually lifted, Mauritius, Maldives and the Seychelles eye their key feeder markets to set the ball of tourism business rolling.

Emirates has announced that it will resume passenger services to Seychelles from August 1, coinciding with the country's reopening to international tourists. So far, Seychelles only letting in private jets and not commercial aircraft. Operating flights to Seychelles five times a week with a Boeing 777-300ER, Emirates offers travellers convenient access to this popular Indian Ocean holiday destination.

In addition, Emirates will increase its services to the Maldives from the current five a week, to six times a week from August 4 to meet rising customer demand.

Meanwhile, Mauritius hopes to go back to ‘normal’ by November, and will be satisfied with clocking in some 400,000 travellers this year, a tourism official said according to recently released report. The World Travel & Tourism Organisation has endorsed the island’s efforts to reopen, awarding Mauritius a Safe Travels designation, while the country has been doing its best to keep travellers informed. The new Mauritius Unwavering campaign aims to highlight the natural beauty of Mauritius, and offering a chance to reflect on the healing ability of nature.

Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) showcased the sunny side of life during the Dream to Travel Festival, an online event organised by Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) from last month.

Maldives officially reopened its borders for international tourists on July 15, 2020, with resorts, liveaboards and hotels located at uninhabited islands to open first, followed by guesthouses and hotels located at inhabited islands will be open from August 1.

The island country relies heavily on the tourism industry as it accounts for the largest foreign exchange earnings, making it the biggest economic contributor in the country. After a complete standstill brought on by Covid-19, the country’s tourism industry has been gearing up to restart; it is set to resume in compliance to protective measures, taking into account the safety of tourists and staff working in the industry.

Seychelles is ready to reopen for commercial passenger flights on August 1, when everything will be place to welcome visitors and to relaunch the economy of Seychelles. At least five of the 13 airlines which were flying to Seychelles pre-Covid will resume flights to the destination, including Etihad, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Austral and Edelweiss. But as the country prepares to open its borders and welcome visitors, only 41 establishments in the tourism sector have been certified ready for reopening as adhering to all Covid-19 guidelines from the health authority, as reported online. Nearly 700 still need to do more work to get the certification.

Tourism is the main pillar of Seychelles' economy. In March, a survey showed that at least 2,367 bookings worth $3.8 million were cancelled between February 25 and March 23 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here’s hoping August will be a month to start setting things right for all these destinations.