Tour operators to the Seychelles say the recent shark attacks are unlikely to prompt a serious dip in holidays to the honeymoon destination.
Derek Gregory, director of Seychelles Travel in Dorset said news of the attack was ‘devastating’ but that so far it had not affected business, with bookings continuing to come in.
Derek Moore, chairman of the Association of Independent Tour Operators said although the incident made disturbing reading it was a rare occurrence and would only have a ‘short term effect’ on business.
The bullish attitude of operators comes as the Seychelles Tourism Board takes steps to reassure travellers that the destination is safe, following the fatal shark attack which killed honeymooner Ian Redmond.
Describing the fatal attack as a ‘freak accident’, Seychelles Tourism Board director Alain St. Ange pointed out that Seychelles’ waters are among the safest in the world.
However the fatal shark attack is the second in a month. Two weeks ago a 36-year-old French tourist was also killed at Anse Lazio beach on the island of Praslin. Prior to this, the last recorded fatal shark attack in the Seychelles was in 1963.
The Seychelles has long enjoyed popularity as a honeymoon destination but bookings soared after Prince William and Kate Middleton’s widely publicised ‘holiday in paradise’ in May.
Derek Gregory of Seychelles Travel says interest is still high despite the attacks.
‘We had one couple who came in yesterday afternoon who said they’d heard about the shark attack but it didn’t bother them,’ said Gregory.
‘A lot of our customers are repeat clients who know the area, who know how safe it is. But if anyone is concerned and wants to cancel a holiday then of course we would honour that.’
Gregory added that The Seychelles Tourism Board had been in touch with all tour operators over the last 24 hours to keep them informed of developments.
‘They’ve got shark experts in from South Africa who have surrounded the island in boats and guards are out,’ he said.
An emergency meeting in the Seychelles brought together all hoteliers, boat charter operators and dive companies with St. Ange, environment secretary Didier Dogley and Captain Valmont from the Maritime Safety Unit.
‘We have now officially closed some beaches in the vicinity of the shark attack. We have put patrols on sea and on land to enforce the no swimming order,’ said St. Ange after the meeting.
He also revealed that since the first accident police representatives had manned beaches to advise visitors not to swim in the deep waters of Anse Lazio Beach.
Holidaymakers have been banned from swimming in five areas until the killer shark has been caught.
‘All relevant agencies have been mobilised to ensure that we bring the situation quickly under control…so unused are we to this type of situation, that we have been obliged to bring in a foreign expert to guide us in our strategies to catch what we suspect may be a rogue shark and not one usually found in our waters,’ said St. Ange.
‘Such an attack is so rare we have to go back almost half a century to find the last such incident,’ he adds.
But the father of the French holidaymaker killed by a shark two weeks before Mr Redmond has accused tourism bosses of putting money before safety by failing to close the beach.
Alain Virolle, whose 36-year-old son Nicolas was attacked while he snorkelled at the same beach, said Mr Redmond’s death could have been prevented if swimming had been banned.
‘It’s an absolute tragedy, and one which could have been avoided,’ he said. ‘It was criminal to leave the beach open in these circumstances.’
The Seychelles attacks come eight months after a series of shark attacks in the tourist destination of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. The incidents, alongside the political unrest earlier this year, slowed down sales to the destination.
It’s not yet known what kind of shark killed Ian Redmond but investigators say the likeliest killer is a bull shark, which is known to be aggressive.
The Seychelles Tourism Board is preparing a press release following a series of crisis meetings called by the Seychelles government since the attack.