More than just a spot for honeymoons

Go sailing in the Seychelles

FOUR-and-a-half hours from Dubai, with no visa requirements for any nationality, the Seychelles is more than a lover’s paradise, and the country’s tourism board is now looking to attract Middle Eastern clients, complete with large families. TTN caught up with Vanessa Nanty of the Seychelles Tourism Office Middle East to find out more. Excerpts:

What are your plans are for the Middle East? What misconceptions do you want to change?
The aim of our office is to increase visitor numbers to the destination through our travel trade partners. Although Europe is Seychelles’ main market, in our efforts to diversify our source of business and in view of the introduction of  two Middle East airlines (Emirates and Qatar Airways), the Middle Eastern region has become one of high importance. Figures have increased tremendously from this region to the destination as more people become aware of it.
As the Seychelles Tourism Board’s representation office in the Middle East we place a lot of effort in educating the local travel trade/ agents to better sell the destination. We also work closely with various niche activity groups, such as Emirates Diving Association, to promote niche activities at the destination to its members. Unfortunately Seychelles is still perceived by many in the region to be a destination for honeymooners where all there is to see and do are the beach activities. Far from it – Seychelles offers world-class diving, fishing, sailing, golf, spas, hikes/trails, two UNESCO world heritage sites and is home to numerous endemic flora and fauna. Seychelles is all about diversity and island-hopping and all these activities are within the reach of everyone.
But it’s a long-haul flight?
Few people realize how easily accessible Seychelles is – its only four and a half hours flight away from Dubai with no visa requirements for any nationality. We promote the destination as an ideal short holiday break as many people travel home for longer periods over summer and then seek short holiday breaks during the rest of the year. To relax, rejuvenate and refresh Seychelles is only a hop away.
Could you give us arrivals numbers for last year and estimates for 2006?
For 2005 Seychelles total visitor arrivals ended at 129,333, an increase of seven per cent over 2004 (121,169). Of this, 4,478 visitors travelled to Seychelles from the Middle East which was an increase of 125 per cent over 2004.
For 2006 the board is targeting 147,300 total visitors (13.8 per cent increase on 2005) with 6,000 clients from the Middle East (33.9 per cent increase on 2005)
What product is offered for Middle Eastern travellers?
Although Seychelles offers a diversity of properties which are capable to cater for all requirements and budgets, it also offers some of the most luxurious properties in the region many of which pay great attention to the needs of the Middle Eastern traveller.
Seychelles properties understand the importance of privacy for many of our Arab nationals and therefore offer villas with private swimming pools, such as the Banyan Tree Resort and the Lemuria Resort. Some clients can even have a beach blocked off, such as Fregate Island Private. For those who cannot afford such an exclusive resort, Seychelles has so many other beaches to offer (65 on the main island alone), the majority shielded by unique granite formations and natural vegetation so everyone can experience the joy of owning a beach and ultimate privacy.
In terms of food, the majority of Seychelles properties now cater for the Muslim community ensuring that their meals are prepared according to their religious requirements. Again, for Middle Eastern families, many five-star properties also offer children’s facilities and kid’s club where parents can confidently leave their children with the hotel staff to play and learn about the natural environment.
The Seychelles offers some of the most exclusive five-star properties however there’s also a wide range of quaint little Creole guesthouses and small hotels. By October 2006, Seychelles would have welcomed two more five star properties which will be ideal for the Arab traveller, the Maia Luxury Resort and Spa, and the Labriz Silhouette Resort. Next year we welcome the Four Seasons Hotel, followed by the Shangri-La and several others. Already, Hilton has acquired a five star property on the main island now known as the Hilton Northolme Hotel and Spa. Over the next three years Seychelles will see the introduction of 43 per cent more rooms with the addition of these hotel chains and more.