The Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) has blamed the closure of its London tourism office on a downturn in UK arrival figures.

Director of tourism – marketing, Alain St Ange, admitted that the closure of the London office last year had been a mistake, leading to an 18% drop in UK visitors to the destination.

He added: “With hindsight, it is something we should not have done.”

As well as the closure, Air Seychelles stopped its direct flights from London. St Ange promised to work to bring numbers back up and allow the carrier to reinstate the flights.

The destination is now reopening its tourist board in London, which will be headed up by new regional manager Fiona Lane.

St Ange pledged increased government support for UK tour operators. He added: “We are entering a period of new dynamism. We are behind the British market.”

Yesterday, 20 Seychelles branded cabs were launched in London. The STB will reveal further promotional activities in coming months.

In 2010, the tourism board will reinforce its message that the Seychelles can be an affordable destination, promoting smaller, good-value properties.