A developer from Seychelles, the island nation where Prince William and his wife, Kate, spent their honeymoon, hopes to lure Hong Kong and mainland property investors into buying homes on the tropical island located off the east coast of Africa.
"We're looking to expand the market here. The introduction of regular flights from Hong Kong to the Seychelles has made that a bit easier," said Craig Heeger, executive chairman of residential marina development Eden Island.
Located in the Indian Ocean northeast of Madagascar, the Seychelles archipelago has 115 islands famed for their beaches and marine parks. The country has a population of 91,000 and enjoys a warm and humid climate all year round.
Eden Island is a luxury project located a few hundred metres from the country's capital island of Mahé. Covering just 56 hectares, it is one of a few residential property projects in Seychelles approved by the government for sale to foreign buyers. The project offers 580 villas and apartments. About 430 have already been sold, mainly to South African, French and British buyers. The properties are sized from 88 to 609 square metres.
The remaining unsold units are priced from US$450,000 for an 88 sq m one-bedroom apartment to US$4.5 million for a 609 sq m six-bedroom villa.
"We see the Chinese market as having the greatest potential for us because all the traditional markets are collapsing," Heeger said in Hong Kong.
"In the last two years we expanded into Eastern Europe. We got terrific sales in the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland and Russia, but those markets are also becoming saturated now, whereas we have hardly even opened the door to the China market yet."
Heeger said property prices on Eden Island had grown by about 70 per cent since 2007, or 7 per cent a year. Rental yields ranged from 4 per cent to as high as 16 per cent. The monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment is between US$2,500 and US$3,000.
Alan Renaud, corporate affairs general manager for Air Seychelles, which began operating three flights a week from Hong Kong via Abu Dhabi to Seychelles in March, said the airline expected the number of Chinese travellers to grow from an estimated 5,000 this year to 10,000 next year.
Clifford Andre, founder of Clifford Offshore Services Provider, which provides legal and real estate agency services to Seychelles, said he had received five to 10 property-related inquiries from Chinese buyers in the six months before the operation of the flights to Hong Kong. That figure had doubled to about 20 over the past three months.
"Definitely there is more interest in the Seychelles," Andre said.