Seychelles and Saudi Arabia expected to sign a visa waiver agreement
Seychelles and Saudi Arabia are expected to sign a visa waiver agreement as a follow up on a proposal discussed between the two countries last year, said the island nation’s foreign affairs minister on Thursday.
Sylvestre Radegonde made the statement at a press conference following a short visit to Seychelles of the Minister for Africa Affairs from Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Abdul Aziz Kattan.
The Saudi Arabian minister called on President Wavel Ramkalawan on Thursday morning before meeting with Radegonde at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“He came to deliver a message from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and that was also an occasion to review cooperation between the two countries,” said Radegonde.
The director general of bilateral affairs, Lindy Ernesta, said that “the two countries have had diplomatic relations since November 2000, and there are currently areas of cooperation and proposals Seychelles has made Saudi Arabia.”
Ernesta said that one of the proposals is to sign a visa waiver agreement between the two countries.
“We have seen that when Seychellois want to visit the country, they are currently facing many problems to do so. Signing a visa waiver agreement would facilitate Seychellois who want to go there,” she said.
Radegonde is planning a visit to Saudi Arabia this weekend and Ernesta said that this will be a chance to discuss the proposal so that an agreement can be concluded.
Seychelles citizens can currently travel to 192 countries visa-free, making their passports the best in Africa and 28th in the world, according to the Henley Passport Index 2021.
Tourism promotion and new flights proposed
The minister said that during his visit, Seychelles will be signing a general cooperation agreement, which will include areas such as investment and education, and a tourism cooperation agreement.
“Seychelles is looking to Saudi Arabia as an alternative tourism market if anything should happen to our current traditional markets as we see happening in Ukraine and Russia at the moment,” he added.
Several tourism activities have been planned for the trip and these include workshops with trade partners, tour operators and others involved in the industry.
“We want to sell Seychelles in a big way in Saudi Arabia so that we can develop that market” he explained, which is why there are meetings scheduled with the various press houses in Saudi Arabia,” said Radegonde.
Last year Seychelles received around 4,000 visitors from Saudi Arabia, a market that has scope to increase, he said.
“I will also be having discussions with Flynas, who have been looking to fly to Seychelles for quite a while now,” said the minister.
The Seychelles tourism authorities have previously partnered with the airline in the past for promotions in the Saudi market.
Radegonde hopes that following the discussions both parties may agree on a date for the flights to start.
Meetings are also planned with Saudia, the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, “which is a more upmarket airline, to entice them to come to Seychelles,” he said.
Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, has also proposed other projects under the Saudi Fund for Development, such as the reconstruction of a school on La Digue Island, the third most populated island.