More than just sun, sand, and sea: Seychelles in a new light

More than just sun, sand, and sea: Seychelles in a new light

In an attempt to reduce its reliance on the European market, Seychelles tourism looks at India as the key prospect. Bernadette Willemin, Director, General Marketing, Tourism Seychelles, urges travellers to look at the destination past its contemporary image of a honeymoon destination.
When we think of Seychelles, some of us might still visualise rays of sun in our eyes and sand on the sides. However, according to Bernadette Willemin, Director of General Marketing, Tourism Seychelles, the destination has a lot more to offer. In a closed press meet in New Delhi, Willemin shared how Seychelles has curated cultural experiences, adventure tourism, and diverse products to cater to all segments.

Laying down the objectives of Seychelles Tourism’s efforts to reiterate the importance of the India market, Willemin shared countless reasons that make Seychelles a desired destination for the Indian traveller. One of the hooks that pull Indians to Seychelles is its flight duration. The 3.5-hour short haul makes the country an out-and-out long weekend destination. Its convenience is heightened when you know that Seychelles is a visa-free destination for travellers from any nation recognised by the United Nations.
Surveying Seychelles beyond beaches, the destination has a diverse set of products right up its alley. From scenic views, and adventure activities to cultural experiences, Seychelles claims to have it all.

Addressing the press, Willemin implored that the travellers dig a little deeper and find their own Seychelles. She said, “Seychelles is for all of you. We cater to all tastes, for all budgets, for all different market segments, everybody can find their own Seychelles.”

The post-pandemic response to the destination has made the season a quite busy one for hotel owners. Willemin shared that the hotel occupancy has reflected much better results post COVID-19. The tourism board projects 3,20,000 global visitors for the year 2022, which is still far behind the benchmark set in the pre-pandemic era. The best year for Seychelles Tourism was in 2019 when they touched 4,28,000.

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Europe has always constituted a massive chunk of business for Tourism Seychelles. The contribution of Europe to the Seychelles tourism economy is a whopping 60-70 per cent of its total business. During the pandemic, when western Europe was still closed – the business from Eastern Europe, Israel, the Middle East, Russia, and Ukraine helped Seychelles stay afloat.

Moving forward, the strategy for Seychelles Tourism is to reduce its reliance on Europe and increase its share from the rest of the world. Willemin said, “Reducing reliance from Europe does not mean that we stop growing our business in Europe but we want to increase market share in other countries.”

A myriad of luxury options in Seychelles exists like premium resorts, hotel properties, and cruises. Contrary to popular belief, more than 60 per cent of the hotel properties in Seychelles are homegrown hotels, boutique hotels, and self-catering properties. This makes Seychelles a destination that serves the affluent as much as it serves an explorer on a budget. As the trends suggest, mostly the cash-rich populace of the globe has been visiting the country. However, through the diversification of its products and offerings, Seychelles has allowed itself to serve more than just the premium segment. With the introduction of varied cultural experiences, and activities, the country can cater to anyone and everyone.
Tourism is quintessential for the Seychelles economy. The wealth of Seychelles as a country is the environment, making sustainable tourism a key proposition for its economy. Seychelles has time and again promised to continue its legacy of non-mass tourism. Willemin stressed how Seychelles prioritises sustainability over everything else. Additionally, Seychelles is amongst very few archipelagic states that offer island hopping options, cultural experiences, and adventure tourism, which positions it as a tough competitor to countries in the same segment. The country is positioned right on the equator, which allows it to be a year-round destination with consistent weather conditions.

Incorporating digital promotions into their marketing campaigns has become imperative for tourism destinations. Willemin spoke in favor of social media platforms, and influencers, saying the modern-day media undoubtedly plays an important role in promoting the destination. “Traditional media interactions and digital media together are key catalysts to drive traction to Destination Seychelles,” she added.

Willemin acknowledged the late introduction of Seychelles in the India market compared to its counterparts. She shared that the destination is amping up its efforts in trying to strengthen ties between the two countries. The way forward is to synergise, coordinate, collaborate, and place India as a bigger contributor to the tourism economy of Seychelles.

Seychelles eyes a quick yet steady recovery from the India market. Transportation and a higher frequency of flights and carriers will be instrumental in increasing tourism for Seychelles. “We are currently operating only one run out of Mumbai. However, we are looking at increasing the frequency of direct flights to Seychelles.” Furthermore, there is a huge scope for improvement in Indian vegetarian cuisine. Seychelles needs to fine-tune its offerings to make the stay comfortable for the diverse Indian audience.
The wedding and MICE business is also a major contributor to business for Seychelles. Acknowledging India as a core market for destination weddings segment in Seychelles, Lubaina Sheerazi, CEO and Co-founder, BRANDit, said, “Along with destination weddings comes these milestones celebrations, which I think has even more potential, we want to target that in a focused manner.”

Within India, Seychelles has mostly looked to promote itself in the metro cities, particularly Mumbai, because of its connectivity with Seychelles. “Delhi is equally important to us. Typically, we have seen that landlocked places in India have a greater affinity towards beach destinations,” added Sheerazi. Seychelles also has plans to penetrate deeper into the India market. The strategy is to employ a focused approach through seminars, workshops, and roadshows in cities such as Bangalore, Pune, Gujarat, Chennai, and gateway cities.