ABU DHABI // The number of tourists visiting the Seychelles from the UAE has jumped sharply since direct flights began from the capital last November.
In the first seven months of this year, 6,800 UAE tourists made the trip - up 44 per cent on the same time last year. That makes the UAE the fifth-biggest source of tourists to the Seychelles, and the biggest in the Arab world.
That, according to the embassy's tourism attache, Aliette Esther, is largely down to new direct flights operated by Etihad Airways.
Before that, she said, "One of the things I heard at exhibitions was that people from Abu Dhabi didn't want to go to Dubai for flights."
The start of the flights coincided with the opening in Abu Dhabi of an embassy. The ambassador, Dick Patrick Esparon, believes a closer relationship is inevitable.
"Sheikh Khalifa and the president of Seychelles have a special relationship," Mr Esparon said.
"And he has become a personal friend of the people of Seychelles."
The UAE has funded projects including a medical centre, a wind farm, and anti-piracy patrol boats.
Projects in the pipeline include roads, water storage and housing.