Seychelles says it ‘welcomes Russians with open arms’ even as island nation condemns war in Ukraine

“Seychelles is not at war with Russia. At least we are not at war with the Russian people,” President Wavel Ramkalawan told Bloomberg in an interview on Thursday. “Seychelles is a tourist destination. Anyone is free to enter.”

Ramkalawan told the outlet that the country “welcomes Russians with open arms”, even though he voted in favor of a United Nations resolution on March 2 condemning the invasion of Ukraine.

Tourism is a key pillar of Seychelles’ economy, accounting for around 70% of the country’s GDP, according to its government.

Russia is Seychelles’ biggest tourist market: in 2021, the archipelago of 115 islands welcomed around 32,000 Russian tourists, according to official data from the country’s statistics agency. Some 13,000 Russian tourists have visited Seychelles so far this year, three times compared to a year ago, the data shows.

The Indian Ocean island reopened its borders in March 2021 after imposing entry restrictions earlier in the pandemic. It welcomed more than 110,000 international tourists in the first four months of 2022, around 80% of what it received during the same period in 2019.

Lynn A. Saleh