On Saturday morning, Aeroflot made a triumphant return to Seychelles after a seventeen-year absence.
The Boeing 77-300 carrying 402 passengers touched down at the international airport at 9.35am.
The inaugural flight from Moscow was greeted with a water canon at the airport, as well as local dances and music for the tourists who disembarked, as per aviation custom.
The Minister of Tourism and Foreign Affairs, Sylvestre Radegonde, the Minister of Transport, Antony Derjacques, and the Russian ambassador, H.E Artem Alexandrovich Kozhin, were among those present at the arrival.
“The resumption of direct flights from Moscow to Seychelles testifies to the confidence of the Russian national carrier in our tourism industry,” said Minister Radegonde while speaking to the press ceremony after the arrival.
Seychelles is a popular tourist destination in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, he said. The Russian market has always been lucrative for Seychelles, with the country consistently ranking among the top seven destinations each year.
“When Aeroflot left the Seychelles in 2003, we were receiving about 3,000 Russian tourists per year. In 2019, a little more than 13,000 tourists from Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States visited Seychelles, a small decrease from previous years. Simply put, we lost market share to Maldives, one of our major competitors over 83,000 Russian tourists visited the Maldives, breaking all pre-pandemic records. The statistics are self-evident. According to data, in 2019.
“With the introduction of twice-weekly flights by Aeroflot, I am hopeful that we can not only reclaim, but increase, our share of the Russian and CIS markets. It is within our ability to do so. We can do it if we all work together as a team – government and the private sector together,” said Minister Radegonde.
He went on to say that we need to develop our product and differentiate ourselves from other similar destinations by giving our tourists the best Seychelles experience possible.
“We need to redouble our marketing efforts. We need to provide value for money, quality service in our establishments. We need to get out of our comfort zones and to stop being complacent. I said it earlier this month and I shall repeat it: we are not the unique destination we claim to be! Competition out there is fierce and relentless,” the minister said.
The minister went on to say that the resumption of direct flights from Russia to the Seychelles is good news for everybody.
“It augurs well, not only for the influx of visitor arrivals, but also for relations between Seychelles and the Russian Federation. This event is the result of long and arduous negotiations between the government of Seychelles and the embassy of the Russian Federation,” he said.
He concluded by saying that Russia has been a respected partner of Seychelles since independence, and that we have accomplished a great deal together and will continue to do so in the future, all in the spirit of cooperation, unity, and mutual respect.
“The return of Aeroflot to our shores will, I am confident, contribute to this,” Minister Radegonde concluded.
Minister Derjacques reported that while Seychelles has had a difficult year, the government has agreed to reopen its shores to visitors due to the government’s strong efforts in adhering to a strict vaccination program.
“I want to urge the public to show courtesy and be considerate of the fees they charge to our guests as they are helping us to build back our economy,” he said.
The chief marketing officer of Aeroflot, Anton Myagkov, said: “We are very proud to be the first European airline to come back to Seychelles in 2021 with a regular service between Moscow and Mahé.”
With the launch of the new route, he said that Aeroflot is now providing more opportunities to all travelers, taking them closer to everyday life and new experiences and joy.
“In 2020 we saw a lot of demand for some paradise island experience with unique and beautiful beaches. Because of Russia’s location, our travellers want to go to a unique tropical country during winter, autumn and spring. That is the reason we are here,” said Mr Myagkov.
The airline will be operating the 8 hour and 20 minute flight twice-weekly to Seychelles as from April 11 on Friday and Sunday.