Goa tourism seeks restart of foreign arrivals from ‘safe’ countries
Goa’s tourism stakeholders have called on the Union and state governments to reopen the state’s tourism industry to foreign arrivals, especially from those countries that have welcomed people from India over the last year and a half.
A delegation of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), a body of tourism industry business leaders, and the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry called on Goa chief minister on Tuesday to impress upon him to restart foreign arrivals - something that is seen as crucial for the state’s small and medium hotel industry to survive.
“As Goa is one of the leading states for tourism we propose that charter flights be allowed to land in Goa especially from safe destinations that have allowed Indians to travel to their countries on tourist visas. International flights are already operating in between two countries like Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. So we should reciprocate the same way,” TTAG president Nilesh Shah said after the meeting with the chief minister.
The industry is facing “severe financial constraints” and even a limited reopening of the industry would go a long way in improving the health of the industry, the stakeholders said.
They have sought that the Goa government should now announce a conditional reopening of the state for foreign tourists, subject to the coronavirus situation being under control in order that they can plan for the upcoming season.
“We request an announcement to be made immediately for the opening of international tourist charters from October onwards so that foreign operators have time to market and prepare for the operations and this coming season is not lost. If by any chance there is any third wave of Covid-19 then the announcement of the cancellation of charter operations can be made by September or October,” the TTAG said.
To encourage tourists to travel, the TTAG has suggested a special charter tourist package visa to be worked out which can be issued manually by the local embassies or temporary landing permits can be issued on arrival to tourists, as done in the past.
According to industry estimates, the tourism sector employs over 40 million skilled and trained manpower and generates approximately US $29 billion foreign exchange per annum for the country.
No new foreign tourists have set foot in Goa since March last year after the country shut its borders to leisure travel and stopped issuing tourist visas.
Prior to the pandemic, the state witnessed close to 90-lakh tourists including around 9-lakh foreigners.
Goa Tourism Development Corporation had conducted a state-wise survey through a consultant to understand the impact of Covid-19 on the state’s tourism industry. As per the survey, the overall loss of earnings in the tourism industry during lockdown has been estimated at ₹2,062 crores. Potential loss of earning for the 2020-21 season has been pegged at ₹7,239 crores and the potential job cuts were to the tune of 1.22 lakh (58%).
Goa’s tourism sector is a big source of revenue for the state with the industry directly contributing 16.43% towards the state Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and also provides employment to nearly 35% of the state’s population that is dependent on the sector, according to official estimates.