The Seychelles has banned all cruise ships until the end of 2021 as part of efforts to prevent a second wave of Coronavirus, according to a statement by Didier Dogley, the Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine.
In addition to the ban on cruise ships, the Indian Ocean island destination said its international airport on the island of Mahe would remain closed. It is not scheduled to reopen until June 1st, 2020.
The move comes amid a widespread re-think on the number of tourists the Seychelles wants to accommodate annually. The island nation has a ban in place on the construction of large new hotel developments, which is due to expire next year.
Even before the Coronavirus pandemic, the island nation had intended to limit its annual tourist arrivals to 500,000. In 2018, 361,844 tourists visited the Seychelles, only around 10% of them on cruise ships.
Port Victoria, the Seychelles primary cruise port, is also the nation’s main economic gateway, and the cruise ship ban was welcome by authorities who said it was more important to focus on trade.
“The Seychelles Ports Authority appreciates the fact that the government has made a prudent decision to mitigate the impact that COVID-19 may have in the medium term,” said Ronny Brutus, chief executive of the national port authority, according to the Seychelles News Agency.
Brutus added that the decision will impact the revenue streams of the Seychelles Ports Authority (SPA), “but it is important to recognize the fact that the risk factor of a resurgence of the COVID-19 in Seychelles far outweighs the opportunity cost of not having cruise port calls for the next two years.”
Brutus said that port Victoria remains the only gateway to the economy and government cannot afford to compromise this strategic point of transit for trade and commerce which connects Seychelles’ maritime industry to the rest of the world.
Some 49 cruise itineraries were scheduled to call in Port Victoria during 2021.
Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC, Costa Cruises, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, AIDA Cruises, Oceania, Phoenix Reisen, , Crystal Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd, and Cruise & Maritime Voyages were all due to call on their Indian Ocean cruise itineraries.
The Seychelles has taken a precautionary approach to limiting the spread of Coronavirus, despite just a handful of cases in the country, it has closed schools and businesses and grounded all flights.