“Ten years ago, when there was the idea to promote Seychelles in South Korea, no one had heard of it,” said Sherin Francis, CEO of Seychelles Tourism Board.
Commemorating the 10th anniversary of its Korea office, the tourism board is looking to build on the budding relationship between the two countries.
|Sherin Francis, CEO of Seychelles Tourism Board. (CEO of Seychelles Tourism Board)|
“Over the years, we’ve seen the friendship between the two countries transcend tourism, investment, and other fields. We had cultural exchanges, such as Korean nights (in Seychelles) and exhibitions of art,” said Francis.
Last week, Seychelles Tourism Board held a food and culture exchange event of Korea-Seychelles in promotion of the island nation.
The visiting chief of the tourism board expressed her anticipation over the potential of the two countries‘ partnership.
Seychelles currently hosts about 300,000 visitors annually. While the number of Korean visitors at 1,900 is not huge, Francis noted that the amount of money they spend during their visit makes Korea “a good market” for them.
Competing with other island resort nations like the Maldives, Francis said the Seychelles’ biggest edge is the diversity that the vast variety of islands provide.
“No two islands are the same. We have several destinations in one, if you have time for island-hopping,” she said, recommending visitors to visit at least the three main islands of Mahe, Praslin & La-Digue.
Even the most densely populated island of Mahe --serving also as a gateway with an international airport -- has under 80,000 residents, and the three main islands are surrounded by tiny islands that host exotic plants and wildlife.
Environment is a strong suit of Seychelles, being ranked No.1 in terms of air quality by Yale University‘s Environmental Performance Index in 2014.
Francis also advised visitors to check out the history and people of Seychelles, saying that because of connectivity to other parts of the world -- located close to coastal African nations and also to Asia – it is a cosmopolitan nation.
In addition to tourism, Seychelles officials have been working to build business ties between the two nations.
Penny C. Belmont, the CEO of Small Enterprise Promotion Agency at Seychelles, said she has been holding follow up meetings with Korean corporates related to the Korea-Seychelles business forum in 2014.
“We have not gone to business between two countries yet. But Korean brands are well known in the Seychelles, such as cars and electronic devices.
As of now, the glaring obstacle in tourism -- in terms of targeting Korean markets -- is the absence of direct flight.
“When you have direct flights, you can invest more because you know you are supported by the airlines. It is a chicken or egg problem; should we invest more money while we don’t have the flights?” she said, adding that direct flights to countries like China has been a catalyst to boosting tourism.
In 2014, the number of Chinese tourists to the country broke the 10,000 mark for the first time.
By Yoon Min-sik