(Bloomberg) -- Even with the Maldives as its next-door neighbor, Seychelles is making a bid to become the most exclusive vacation destination in the Indian Ocean. 

Located off the east coast of Africa and accessible via direct flights from Europe the Middle East, the 115-island archipelago of Seychelles is considered as a far-flung destination for many of the world’s most deep-pocketed travelers: It’s some 13,600 kilometers (8,450 miles) from New York and about 8,160 kilometers from London. For those who make the trip, the rewards are ample. The private island resorts, white-sand beaches, scuba diving, and curious rock formations (both over and under the water) are all world-class without being overrun. 

For the government, these draws are also an unmatched opportunity. Tourism is already the greatest source of employment and foreign currency nationwide. By focusing its tourism industry on fewer but higher-spending travelers — like so many other popular destinations around the world are now doing — it aims to grow both of those metrics sustainably.

In an exclusive interview with Bloomberg on the sidelines of a regional conference in Mauritius earlier this month, Foreign Affairs and Tourism Minister Sylvestre Radegonde says he’d like to see a ceiling of about 450,000 to 500,000 tourists a year in the medium-to-long term. The numbers, he explains, reflect his personal views rather than official policy, and still leave room for tourism to grow from its current state: In 2023, the country saw 350,879 arrivals, 6% more than in 2022.

Seychelles’ ambitions are most clearly visible in its hotel pipeline. On the one hand, the government has imposed a moratorium on licenses for new hotels; what little is being green-lit focuses on the rarified and ultra-high-end.

Take the just-opened Waldorf Astoria Seychelles Platte Island, built at a cost in excess of $200 million welcomed its first visitors. It’s accessible only by private plane. From its 50 butler-serviced seafront villas guests can spot humpback whales in the distance; many have walls of windows that open up to private pools and outdoor showers. 

By the end of the year, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE will open its sixth Cheval Blanc resort here, along the immaculate beaches of Mahe’s southwestern coast. Its 52 jungle- and ocean-facing pool villas will have access to a surf simulator and Guerlain spa, among other perks.

“In Seychelles, we target quality over quantity. That’s the policy we have adopted. That’s the policy that will continue going forward,” says Radegonde.

The new developments add to two Four Seasons, a Kempinski, Six Senses and Raffles hotels already in operations in the country. At several, rooms cost upwards of $1,700 per night, but the new openings will push prices higher. The new Waldorf Astoria starts at around $2,200; Cheval Blanc is expected to cost some $3,000 — that’s as much as the average Seychelles visitor spends in seven days.

“All these hotels will help us continue to attract high-end visitors,” Radegonde says. “Not everybody can come to Seychelles. One needs to deserve it.”

In stressing quality rather than quantity, the Seychelles is following a playbook established by several other popular destinations, from Hawaii to the Spanish isles. 

Radegonde insists that the focus on ultra-luxe resorts will not leave behind the islands’ many family-run establishments, which currently make up the majority of Seychelles’ hotel supply. The plan is to help these local businesses raise their standards, diversify the offerings and boost revenue. One way to do that, he says, is by helping them tap into cultural experiences: cooking and dancing classes, visits to craft markets, and workshops highlighting the islands’ artistic traditions.

Ultimately, capping hotel rooms and inbound visitors should refine the quality of both in tandem. He says it will be the best way to “keep Seychelles the way it is.” 

“People travel to Seychelles because of the environment, for the cleanliness, the culture,” Radegonde explains. “Still today, you can find yourself on a beach, on the main island, alone.” 

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