Seychelles, one of the first nations to announce a ban on cruise ships last year, intends to reopen in time for the winter 2021 cruise season.
The Indian Ocean archipelago authorities reversed the May 2020 decision banning all cruise ships until 2022 saying that liners with a maximum of 300 guests will be permitted starting in mid-November 2021 to dock in Port Victoria (Mahe Island) and sail in the country's waters.
In May 2020, the country drew international attention when its government announced that it had decided to ban all cruise ships for 2 years in an effort to control the spread of the COVID-19. Seychelles is now joining a growing number of countries across Europe, North America, and the Caribbean that are easing restrictions and facilitating cruise ships to restart operations. However, Asia, including China and Australia, continues to delay the restart by large cruise ships. Seychelles explored reopening the industry in March 2021, but the plans had to be delayed due to a surge in COVID cases.
The decision to reopen Seychelles follows the rollout of a vaccination campaign that has seen the country become one of the world's highest-vaccinated nations. To facilitate the reopening, the Seychelles government established a COVID company and cruise ship checklist to facilitate the safe restart of operations. The checklist, developed in line with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and European Maritime Safety Agency guidelines, outlines the authorities and duties of the agencies in Seychelles, the passenger terminal arrangements at ports of call, the contingencies in case of a COVID outbreak and the coordination between cruises and ports.
Tourism is a significant part of the economy of the country, making up the 2nd largest industry in Seychelles after commercial fishing. In 2020, tourism revenues plunged by 61%, a loss of US$322 million, with tourist arrivals dropping by 70%. Before the onset of the crisis, Seychelles welcomed a total of 384,204 visitors in 2019, of which 63,442 were from cruise ships, the country’s National Bureau of Statistics announced. During the 2019-2020 season, the Port of Victoria received 39 cruise ship calls with the last ship permitted to arrive being Ponant's Le Bougainville in March last year.
Historically, the country also received larger ships, but the government differed a decision on opening the port more broadly because of ongoing fears over the spread of the virus.