Seychelles is opening to tourists with no quarantine or vaccine required, and it's following the same model the Maldives used to launch its tourism success story

  • Seychelles is opening its borders to tourists on March 25 with no quarantine or vaccine required.
  • Travelers only have to show a negative COVID-19 test to enter the island nation in the Indian Ocean.
  • The move follows the success of the Maldives, another island nation that’s been open to tourists with no quarantine requirement since July.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Seychelles, an island nation in the Indian Ocean off East Africa, is reopening its borders to tourists on March 25 – no quarantine or COVID-19 vaccine required, the country’s tourism authority announced last week.

Travelers only have to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure, and then they’re free to roam Seychelles’ sandy white beaches and snorkel its warm turquoise waters.

Seychelles authorities say the decision comes amid the success of the country’s vaccination campaign. Last week, President Wavel Ramkalawan said Seychelles expects to have 70% of its 100,000 population vaccinated by mid-March. The president said the island nation would therefore reach “herd immunity,” which is when enough people in a community – typically about 50% to 90% – become immune to a contagious disease, making it less likely to spread.

“We have now arrived at the point where opening our borders further is the next step to allow for our economic recovery,” Seychelles’ Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Sylvestre Radegonde, said at a March 4 press briefing.

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Like many other tourism-dependent countries, Seychelles’ economy has been hit hard by the pandemic. A 70% drop in tourist arrivals left its tourism revenues down 61% in 2020 as compared to the year before, its finance minister said last month.

In January, Seychelles took the first step in reviving its tourism industry by announcing that travelers who had received a COVID-19 vaccine could visit the country. The island nation was the first African country to start rolling out a vaccination program, according to a January news release.

Seychelles’ latest decision makes it even easier for travelers to visit its 115 islands. Tourists will face no restrictions on where they can travel within Seychelles, and the country has done away with minimum stay requirements that required at least a 10-day stay at some resorts, according to the tourism board. Travelers will still need to maintain social distancing and wear face masks. Only tourists from South Africa will not be allowed to enter Seychelles.

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Seychelles has reported a total of 3,000 COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Following in the footsteps of the Maldives

Seychelles’ move to restart tourism follows the international tourism success story of the Maldives, another island nation in the Indian Ocean that’s long been a luxury travel destination.

After a brief closure early in the pandemic, the island nation reopened its borders to tourists in July 2020 without mandating so much as a negative COVID-19 test. In September, the Maldives started requiring a negative test but still didn’t instate a 14-day quarantine period like many other countries.

Its relatively hands-free approach seems to have paid off.

The prevalence of luxury resorts set on their own private islands in the Maldives makes social distancing and contact tracing relatively easy, as Lilit Marcus reported for CNN Travel last month.

A total of 555,494 tourists visited the Maldives in 2020, which surpassed the nation’s expectations of 500,000 visitors by the end of the year. That’s still less than half of its typical 1.7 million visitors each year, but those who did come stayed much longer than usual, with some booking out entire islands.

As Thoyyib Mohamed, the managing director of the nation’s tourism authority, told the publication: “We promoted the destination as a safe haven to the tourists.”

Other island nations have reopened to tourists with far stricter requirements than Seychelles or the Maldives. Take Sri Lanka, which reopened to tourists in January with a unique system where tourists can travel the country in semi-isolated “bio bubbles.”

Under this arrangement, travelers must stay with their bubble group, stay only in approved hotels, and visit approved tourist sites at specific times. They’re forbidden from mingling with the local population or tourists outside of their bubble. They’re also required to travel via independent transportation and undergo frequent COVID-19 testing.

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