Seychelles Tourist Arrivals Pushed Higher By France, Italy

Higher visitor numbers from France and Italy fueled the Seychelles' tourism market to a record number of tourists last year, officials said Monday.

Visits from France were up 14 percent last year to more than 37,000, while Italy saw its visitor number rise 10 percent, said Sherin Naiken, chief executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB).

"The strong dominance of our European markets is so evident to have driven the double-digit growth in arrivals," said Naiken.

Naiken spoke at the STB's annual marketing meeting Monday at Kempinski Seychelles Resort in the Baie Lazare district, in the south of Mahe, the nation's the main island.

Seychelles had about 276,500 visitors in 2015, a 19 percent increase compared with 2014. The nation's crystal blue waters and white sandy beaches make tourism the first pillar of Seychelles' economy.

Europe remains the most important region for Seychelles' tourist arrivals.

The national airline, Air Seychelles, contributed to the growth in the French market after the reintroduction of three direct flights to France, said Bernadette Willemin, the director for Europe at STB.

Germany sends the second-most visitors to the island nation, though visitor numbers were flat in 2015. Switzerland is seen as a market with great potential, Willemin said.

 Tourism numbers show that peak arrivals occur during the Easter holiday, the Carnaval International de Victoria and the Creole Festival.

"All our European markets have performed well, with the exception of Russia," Willemin told SNA. "Even if the Russian market has seen a decrease, it remains among the top five markets for Seychelles. For 2015 with the Russian market, we have done better that our competitors, such as Mauritius."

Chinese visitor numbers have skyrocketed over the last five years, from 222 visitors in 2011 to a record number of visitors of 13,900 in 2015, though that represented only a 4 percent increase from 2014, according to national tourism figures.

Chinese visitor numbers increased only slightly last year because of a weakening of the Chinese currency, Naiken said.

The Seychelles islands -- located in the western Indian Ocean -- can give Chinese visitors a "two worlds in one" experience since some of the nation's 115 islands are made of granite and some are made of coral, said Jean-Luc Lai Lam, the marketing manager for China at STB.

"We also have a rich culture and history. When Chinese travel, they like to visit our historical sites, taste our food and go hiking. Holiday is not only about relaxing for them. They like to experience the destination," added Lai Lam.

With direct flight to Beijing being introduced by Air Seychelles this month, Lai Lam said he is expecting the numbers for the market to grow significantly in 2016.

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on Feb 04, 2016

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