A new UAE visa waiver for all Seychellois passport holders will come into effect on Thursday July 16, making the island nation the first African country to implement such an agreement with the Emirates.
The development will allow Seychelles’ citizens to visit the UAE for a period of up to 90 days without applying for a visa before travelling. An on-arrival visa will be granted free of charge.
The visa-waiver was signed in Abu Dhabi in November last year by foreign ministers from both the countries.
Seychelles minister of Foreign Affairs and Transport and chairman of Air Seychelles Joël Morgan said: “This visa waiver simplifies travel to the UAE for Seychellois passport holders and brings our two countries, which have longstanding bilateral relations, closer together.
“It signals a clear intent to build on our existing relationship and symbolises the deep level of trust between Seychelles and the UAE, our largest outbound travel destination and the country with most air connections to our archipelago.
“This visa waiver is reciprocated through Seychelles’ policy of granting all foreign visitors a visa on arrival, including UAE nationals, which has contributed to the UAE becoming our fourth-largest inbound tourism market.”
Abu Dhabi and Seychelles already share close airlinks; in January 2012, Etihad Airways acquired a 40 per cent stake in Air Seychelles for $45m.
The combined number of return flights operated by the two carriers between Seychelles and Abu Dhabi currently stands at 14 per week.
The flights are operated on an Airbus A320 aircraft in a two-class configuration, with 16 business class and 120 economy class seats, offering more than 3,800 seats on the route each week.
CEO of Air Seychelles Roy Kinnear asserted that the visa waiver will further boost travel to the UAE, making it more affordable and convenient for Seychellois.
“The UAE is a popular holiday and business destination for Seychellois, in particular for its shopping opportunities. In the first half of 2015, a total of 4,425 Seychellois travelled to the UAE, representing a significant 26 per cent of all departures,” he said.
“In turn, some 8,646 Emirati nationals have visited Seychelles in the first half this year. In response to such strong travel demand, in both directions, we have worked with Etihad Airways to enhance our combined schedules and together offer double-daily flights between Seychelles and the UAE.”
He added: “This visa waiver also makes it convenient for our guests to add a stopover in Abu Dhabi to their travel plans; for instance, combining a flight with Air Seychelles to Mumbai and returning on a codeshare flight on Etihad Airways via Abu Dhabi.”