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Wednesday, 19 August, 2020, 14 : 00 PM [IST]

Travel and Tourism Association of Goa urges govt to allow charter flights for revival

Tourism stakeholders in Goa want the Centre to announce its policy for the arrival of foreign charters as part of the roadmap to revive tourism in the state, reports Gerard de Souza in The Hindustan Times.

The sector which has come to a standstill on account of the global Covid-19 pandemic and has failed to pick up despite the state being open for tourists from within the country, believes that there are hopes of revival later this year, if the right decisions are made now.

“We need the government to announce its policy on charter flights that it will allow charters to fly in from countries like Russia and UK so that we can at least begin marketing,” Nilesh Shah, President, Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) has said.

“In the absence of that we cannot entertain inquiries or indicate that we will be open later this year unless there is clarity from the government,” he added.

Goa’s tourism season that largely coincides with European winter begins in October but picks up in November, December and January when it is at its peak before tapering off by the month of April.

Hotels and tour operators begin marketing campaigns and begin receiving inquiries and even bookings during the months beginning August for trips later in the year, which this year hasn’t even begun.

International travel has been suspended with uncertainty over when it will resume, but stakeholders are hopeful that if not scheduled flights charter flights in which only those who have passed the valid safety cheques or have been given a ‘Covid-19 passport’ or have been vaccinated will be allowed to travel. The launch of a vaccine in Russia has offered some home that those who could get vaccinated may choose to travel, but it is yet unclear whether India will recognise the vaccine.

“We cannot wait until the last minute to decide,” Shah said.

Ernest Dias, a tour operator, said that until the number of cases begins to stabilise will be a prerequisite for people to travel. “Our (India’s) numbers are still very high and we are not sure whether people will want to come or if their governments will allow them to travel. It’s too early to say anything for sure,” he said.

Goa has opened for tourism with strict protocols in place for those wishing to visit the state for a holiday, but operators say the numbers are only about 5-7% of normal levels and haven’t really grown since the sector opened up back in July. Tourists arriving by charter flights make up the bulk of the foreign arrivals, who are the more sought after tourists as they, on average, stay longer and spend more during their stay.

“Tourists are worried about quarantine protocols which are in place and under which they have to remain quarantined till their test results come which could be 72 hours and then undergo quarantine back in their home state upon return, which is not very enjoyable. Unless there is a uniform policy across the country, which will happen only once the numbers start decreasing, the situation will not change,” Shah said.

“Goa is not a large state where people from within the state will substantially and sustainably contribute to tourism,” he added.

Operators are hopeful that the government will announce consistent policies over the next 2-3 weeks, which they say will help the industry restart by December.

The tourism industry that has been hardest hit by the lockdown, and which comprises between 9-11% of Goa’s Gross Domestic Product. TTAG has estimated that Goa will have lost upwards of INR 1,000 crore into the state economy on account of the shutdown. With numbers still too small to be sustainable, only a few hotels have reopened with even those permitted to do so, yet to reopen.

“The direct and indirect economic impact of the tourism industry in India is estimated at 10% of the GDP and 40% in Goa including multiplier effects,” the TTAG said. (Source: Hindustan Times)

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