To be in Britain’s good books, Seychelles has banned South African visitors from entering the island nation—despite reopening its borders to every other nation of the world.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit Africa in 2020, Seychelles was relatively quick, clean, and precise in handling the outbreak. The Eastern African country pretty much shuttered its sea docks and airspaces, allowing only returning nationals back in.
As of this week, the tourism-dependent country said its unlocking her gates. Sylvestre Radegonde, Seychelles’ Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, announced that the country’s borders will be reopened on March 25, 2021.
The only misnomer in the development is that South Africa’s worsening pandemic rave has made it the only country that cannot access Seychelles. A scenic archipelago of islands, the nation is a popular destination among South African nationals, and even expats.
Before COVID-19, over 12,000 South Africans were making 5-hour flights from Joburg to Victoria—the capital city of Seychelles—every year. For fact, this score of travellers didn’t need a visa to board a flight to the country. Mutual visa waivers have been in place between both countries. But, then coronavirus happened.
South Africa is not just the worst hit African country on COVID-19 stats, but is also (more recently) embattled by another strain of the virus. Known as B.1.351 or 501.V2, the variant worries because of its curiously large number of mutations.
Deaths from this strain is 50 percent more transmissible, and it has been detected around the world, especially in the United Kingdom. To compound issues, South Africa just fell into its worst recession in a century. The country’s economy has been shrinking uninterruptedly since early 2019, months before the pandemic hit Africa.
Speaking of Britain; roughly a week after (Dec 18th, 2020) the South African health authorities announced their discovery of the new strain, London effectively imposed a travel ban on South Africa—exempting only its returning residents and Irish nationals. On January 9th, 2021, England added 9 other Southern African countries to the blacklist.
It could seem off that Seychelles is honest and upfront with its intention to please the United Kingdom by restricting South African voyage into its country. But, it’s all math. Tourism accounts for 65.8 percent of Seychelles’ GDP. In 2018 alone, the country received 240,000 European travellers, 12 percent of which were from the U.K.
Seychelles’ tourism revenues crashed by 60 percent, thanks to the COVID-19 effect. The country’s approach to tackling the novel contagion might be the reason it hasn’t yet slipped into a recession.
However, to reboot and recharge its economy just in time to escape the foretold collective African recession, it’s necessary for Seychelles to resume travel and tourism.
If the African holm nation allows South African visitors come tour, London will put Seychelles on its red travel list—because it’s a popular travel destination among its nationals. Other European countries might copy the playbook, leaving Seychelles almost tourist-less and her economy hackneyed.
Not on Wavel Ramkalawan’s watch.
Featured Image: Art Station